French Open: Andrea Leand’s primer and picks


Tennis: PSN tennis analyst Andrea Leand breaks down the top contenders at Roland Garros, as neither top seed arrives in form and no Serena Williams or Roger Federer in sight.

By Andrea Leand, PSN tennis analyst

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  • Andy Murray (top seed): Since becoming world champion last year, he has struggled with injury, illness and the finding the motivation that drove him to the top. Do not see much change for this Grand Slam.
  • Novak Djokovic (2): Now with Andre Agassi in his corner, need we say more?
  • Stan Wawrinka (3): Stan flies low during the year in tour events, but comes alive at the Grand Slams. With a great draw, he will fly under the radar as one of the most dangerous in the field.
  • Rafael Nadal (4): With renewed confidence and physical strength – and without nemesis Roger Federer anywhere in the draw – the King of Clay remains the overwhelming favorite to take his 10th French Open title.
  • Milos Raonic (5): The former world No.3 has high expectations and lofty dreams for a Grand Slam title and run to No.1. But the diligent, if stiff-moving, Canadian probably will do better to set his sights on Wimbledon.
  • Dominic Thiem (6): The Austrian sports the second-best claycourt record this season – including a win over Nadal – and will need such confidence and offensive topspin game to take out nemesis David Goffin and Djokovic to draw a semifinal meeting with Nadal.
  • Marin Cilic (7): The savvy Croat plays big-man tennis well on the dirt and, having rejuvenated himself from a depleting 2016, looks in form to uphold his seeding.
  • Kei Nishikori (8): Without his characteristic consistency and discipline on court this year, the Japanese star has taken surprising losses to lower-ranked foes. Don’t see him suddenly able to flick the switch to a higher level at Roland Garros with Alexander Zverev in his draw.
  • Alexander Zverev (9): The 20-year-old NextGen star’s improved fitness, experience and aggressive execution earned him a top-10 ranking a week ago. It may take him to his first French Open final.
  • David Goffin (10): The unassuming, unimposing Belgian sneaks through draws with a well-rounded game on all fronts. If the 10th seed can get by Thiem – which he has twice this year, including at the Australian Open – look for him to run through his quarter.
  • Grigor Dimitrov (11): The talented Bulgarian looked primed to take his first Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open semifinals in January, but his failure to close out a number of tough three-set battles since has dented his mojo and perhaps his chances in Paris.
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12): The perennial favorite Frenchman – and brand new dad – has played himself into better shape over the past month but still will need more than crowd support to make the second week.
  • Tomas Berdych (13): The aging Czech veteran has coach Goran Ivanisevic in his corner and years of experience as a perennial top-10 star, but he also will need more aggressive play to get by American big man John Isner and reach the second week.
  • Nick Kyrgios (18): Nick’s form is not where it was a couple months ago and, without the necessary lateral movement and fitness for five sets on red clay, it’s difficult to think his exceptional raw talent and new coach Sebastian Grosjean will get him through the tournament’s toughest draw.
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (29): After four wrist surgeries, the imposing Argentine returned to the game last year with a bang to post upset victories over Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Wawrinka. Dodgy mobility and backhand, however, can be easier to exploit on the red clay.

Andrea’s pick: Rafael Nadal

Sleeper: Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem

WOMEN

  • Angelique Kerber (1): If she can win a tricky first-round against the always formidable Ekatarina Makarova, a shaky Kerber may gain enough confidence to reach the second week.
  • Karolina Pliskova (2): There is no higher IQ on tour, so when the big-serving Pliskova downplays her own chances on the red dirt, you have to listen.
  • Simona Halep (3): The feisty Romanian has been channeling her emotions more productively in the last month. If 100 percent physically, she has the wheels to challenge for her first Grand Slam title.
  • Garbine Muguruza (4): If the Spaniard can channel her emotions and strong will the right way, she has the big-hitting game and stature as defending champion to diffuse her disappointing start to 2017 – and combat a difficult draw that includes Kiki Mladenovic.
  • Elina Svitolina (5): The 22-year-old Ukrainian’s improved foot speed and composure – not to mention accumulation of the best win-loss record of the top 10 this year – casts her as a favorite for the final.
  • Johanna Konta (7): The British top-10 star has the grit and steady game to outrally anyone in the draw not on her toes.
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova (8): The wily Russian veteran has won the French Open before and has the versatility -and rekindled spirit from a depleting 2016 – to do it again.
  • Venus Williams (10): The winner of seven Grand Slams never has won the French, and it’s a tall order to ask at age 36. But the smart and better-conditioned star still can stun the best with superior execution and a whole lot of heart.
  • Caroline Wozniaki (11): The former world champion has the foot speed and sass to wear down the best but, after a disappointing claycourt season, the glamour girl also will need more muscle to beat physically stronger opponents on clay.
  • Madison Keys (12): The powerhouse American has yet to regain her top-10 form since surgery on her left wrist last year. But with mentor Lindsay Davenport courtside this past week, Keys looks like she is moving well enough to fare better.
  • Kristina Mladenovic (13): The 24-year-old Frenchwoman is the hottest player on tour. With unabashed gumption and game – not to mention French Open doubles and junior titles already to her name – is ready to seize the moment in this year’s singles draw.
  • Petra Kvitova (15): The two-time Wimbledon champion surprised all with her miraculous recovery from a knife-wielding attacker who cut her left hand. But despite a good draw, expectations for her first foray back this year are cautious at best.
  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (16): The savvy Russian trains in Monaco and has big firepower, but she will need to show better fitness for those longer claycourt points to reach the second week.

Andrea’s pick: Kristina Mladenovic

Sleeper: Johanna Konta

 

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