Jun 02, 2021

2021 Roland Garros WTA Round Two

From upsets on the men’s side to strange withdrawals on the women’s side, this Roland Garros is already very confusing and it’s only the first round. If you’re looking for someone to blame, the bracket contest leaders are currently 230DentistAppt (nice of him to use our contest as a calendar also), Honeybadger, vani, Charlie02123, Chi. They knew this was coming, so blame them <3

Barty vs Linette :

Bernarda Pera doesn’t care that I thought she’d lose in two. Ash Barty going 3 in the first round is a real strong trend, but she finished strong as usual. Magda Linette had one of the simpler first rounds, and she led early and often in her contest. The offensive talent has great power in her forehand and a good first serve, but it’s the kind of offense that Barty specializes in taking apart. Barty likely has the better serve here, and should be able to win this one in straight sets. Barty in 2.

Sharma vs Jabeur :

I don’t understand why Sharma plays great when she does, or why she struggles when she does. It doesn’t seem to be player specific, or stylistic issues, so I’ll need to keep watching her matches. She may just be inconsistent, but she was more than solid enough against Irina Bara, who doesn’t really play offense of her own and needed those errors. This sets up a rematch of the Charleston finals where Sharma was an overwhelming underdog, was down a set and a break, and still managed to turn things around to win. It was one of the most miraculous comebacks in a finals that has been seen this season, and a well deserved win for Astra since she really navigated her own troubles and some difficult opponents. This time, on a bigger stage, Sharma is a bit better. Jabeur will have learned her lesson though, and her game is a bit bigger. Hitting through Putintseva is always a good sign for an offensive player, and I think Jabeur’s variety on the slower courts (slower than Charleston at least) will be a big key. Jabeur in 2.

Gauff vs Wang :

Gauff had her hands full with qualifier Krunic, whose quality looks like it will have her back on tour before the end of the year. Gauff is on a very good run here, and it’s welcome after a few seasons of middling results and passive play. Pushing is fine, but Gauff’s power and agility really should have her playing a more offensive game. When she opens up, errors come, but so do wins. It’s scary how good she is at such a young age, and although she mopes a bit when she’s losing, you have to consider that that is really the only minor criticism that can be levied against her at this point. Wang had a tougher match than I expected, winding up in a marathon with Hsieh. The match really could have gone either way, and it leaves a question mark of whether Wang will struggle to find consistency against Gauff as well (this will be a straight sets loss if so), or if she will be able to open up a bit since Gauff plays a much more linear and straightforward game. I think Wang will acquit herself well, but having lost recently in straight to Gauff and almost losing to Hsieh who isn’t the best on clay makes me think Gauff will have another win here. Gauff in 2.

Ferro vs Brady :

Fiona Ferro was cruising early against Liang, but the qualifier really turned things around and Ferro lost her range for a while. It just seems very difficult to win in straight sets in these lopsided (oddswise) matches. Brady had a real tough test against Sevastova, and managed to really frustrate the Latvian artist. Ferro is a similar level to Sevastova, but with a much different game. She has a big forehand at times, plays a very short backswing on her backhand which makes her tough to read, and is a brilliant defender at times. She should sit as a small favorite here in the odds, but Brady seems a bit more consistent at this stage in their careers. I don’t know a nice way to say that Ferro misses more than she should, but it’s the only thing really standing in the way of her joining that next tier of players. Brady in 3.

Pliskova vs Stephens :

Vekic played very well considering her lengthy layoff, but Pliskova has found form in the second half of the clay season and the dry conditions are making things a bit quicker/conducive to offensive players winning as noted by DC creator and reddit user kuklachert. I am guilty of forgetting to check the weather for matches until the announcers or someone mentions it, and one of the only reasons I’m able to talk about tennis is because I STEAL IDEAS FROM OTHER PEOPLE. Suarez-Navarro is someone I’d steal ideas from, because she plays such beautiful tennis. Her one-handed backhand is amazing, and Stephens was completely out of sorts by the end of the first set. She really made a number of errors, and Carla thrives on that, but lack of matches led to some errors for CSN as the match progressed. Speaking of fitness, I have to say that Sloane Stephens has not been in the shape she’s in right now for several seasons. It really bodes well for her play in this next match. If she’s able to defend against Pliskova’s serving, she can win. It’s a big if since Sloane still continues to make errors on normal rally balls, but her power is good enough that she doesn’t really have to go that big to win rallies. It’s strange to want to pick Stephens to win multiple rounds, but Pliskova isn’t going to be able to endure long rallies and Stephens has a much simpler task ahead of her. Stephens in 3.

Lepchenko vs Muchova :

Lepchenko is dangerous here. She played great in qualfying, and great in round one. I don’t know where she’s finding this next gear as she was almost off tour, but it’s cool to see her crush the ball. Muchova had a scare against Petkovic, seeming unable hold a lead and at times seeming like she’d crash out, but to her credit she never really got upset or changed her game. Muchova is a player like Nadal in that there is no shot she cannot execute, and beating her requires the opponent to play well for the entire match. I think Lepchenko’s level will make her a tough out, but the wisened lefty is likely to have a tough time on defense, and Muchova’s level tends to rise as she progresses through a tournament. Petkovic may be inconsistent, but her height and athletic ability make her game more suited to competing against top competition. Lepchenko is a grinder, and Muchova should be able to edge her out. Muchova in 3.

Alexandrova vs Krejcikova :

Win win win win win win win. Barbora Krejcikova did not look like herself for stretches against Krystina Pliskova, but once she got going she really was impressive. She’s on a really solid win streak and is likely to continue it since she’s won most of her encounters with Alexandrova, and by most, I mean only the most recent one. The most recent one though was on clay, and happened last week, so the only trouble for Krejcikova here is the possible wall she might hit after winning a title last week. Alexandrova has big offense, but the clay doesn’t help. Krejcikova is more consistent, and that is likely to be the difference. I wouldn’t trust her physical endurance in this event, but Krejcikova in 2.

Li vs Svitolina :

This section of the draw has a ton of interesting matchups. Ann Li is the most promising player to pop up on tour this past season, and winning on clay is new but a great sign. Svitolina is through, and this is an interesting spot because Li wins by exposing her opponents movement. She goes a bit bigger on returns than most WTA players, and for a baseliner, she manages to hit through the court a bit more than most. Those victims though are not the mover that Svitolina is. Backing Svitolina is often a thankless venture, as she can wind up deep in matches that she should have won in two, but this is one that I expect to go deep. Although Li is very good, Svitolina should probably have the experience and shot tolerance to earn errors from her. Li can have a tough time holding serving also since she goes a bit bigger with her shots (kinda like FAA) and can miss by small margins. Svitolina in 3.

Kenin vs Baptiste :

Don’t call it a comeback! Kenin and Ostapenko played a pretty entertaining match, and although they split sets, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Kenin would win going into the third. Ostapenko had to do too much with the ball to win points, and Kenin was able to create the kind of pressure she always does with solid backhand returns. I really love the way her and Collins and Kontaveit and Muchova go after the return of serve. Kenin has had a slow season, but this is a good spot for her to get started. Hailey Baptiste is so good. She crushes her forehand, and doesn’t seem uncomfortable anywhere on the court. She plays as if she’s killing time on the court waiting for a delivery, and her power make it hard for a lot of players to really find a simple path past her. This experience is great for her, and you know with two Americans playing this match will be plastered over Tennis Channel. Baptiste has the game to beat the bad Kenin, but it is likely that Kenin sees the finish line and she tends to play much better when she gets a hint that she can win. Kenin in 2.

Martincova vs Pegula :

Martincova got the job done in round one which was tough but expected. Pegula, down a break, was still -800 against Zhu. She managed to turn things around, but Zhu could easily have won that match. Pegula just doesn’t seem to have a good gameplan for clay, and since her serve doesn’t net her as many free points as it does in hardcourt, she becomes a bit of a simple player for her opponents. The backhand is solid, but a bit too flat for the surface, and she seemed to lose range with it at times. This will give Martincova a target that she usually goes to, as her inside out forehand is the main weapon, but Martincova isn’t exactly the overwhelming favorite either, as her season has been all about hardcourt wins. Tough to call, but I think Pegula has the better stability between the two, and I expect both to have to navigate some very rough patches of play. Pegula in 3.

Sakkari vs Paolini :

Sakkari got off to a good start beating Zavatska, who qualified and looked very dangerous early on. Not a lot to say about Sakkari that hasn’t already been said. She has the 2nd best eyebrows in the tournament now that Rublev has entered the ring, but yeah she’s basically an incredible tennis player and the fittest player on tour. The more wins she gets, the more likely I think it is that she wins a major. Barty and Sabalenka are playing great, but there’s nothing in their games that Sakkari isn’t able to deal with, so it’s just a matter of finding that next gear at the right time. Paolini can make this difficult because she moves the ball well and tends to extend rallies with her speed, but the match is on Sakkari’s racquet. Paolini is one of the better players at breaking serve when she loses a set, so this could take some doing, but Sakkari should have ample opportunites to break Jasmine as well. Sakkari in 2.

Diyas vs Mertens :

Diyas with a simple win, and Mertens with a very impressive one. Storm Sanders has quality play and is left-handed, but Mertens is just a next level defender. She’s a slight notch behind the top 5 in the game, and the gap doesn’t really need to narrow for her to win titles if one of them has a bad semifinal. Diyas will be a good test because she’s consistent and quick, but Mertens just has way more ways to score. Mertens in 2.

Kostyuk vs Zheng :

Kostyuk quietly pulled off the upset of the day in beating Muguruza. After being very hyped and losing as a favorite in so many spots, Kostyuk finally fell off the radar, and that’s when she played her best. I had to actually be reminded that Kostyuk is 18 years old. This is a player who’s regarded as one of the biggest hitters, and who has been on the tour since she was 15 years old. The career I worried was fizzling has not even begun, and if I’m being honest Muguruza’s consistent quality was not quite present for this one but it was partially because of Marta’s play. For Zheng, a very good quality win against Tormo sets up this match against an ideal opponent. It shouldn’t be ideal to play a phenom who just beat Muguruza, but Zheng really thrives on putting the ball in difficult spots and baiting her opponents into errors, so this is as good as it gets for a second round. Kostyuk is prone to errors, and Zheng’s speed will have her returning a lot of shots, but Muguruza is at least the same level of defender, and the match will take a long time, so Kostyuk should find enough shots to get through. Kostyuk in 2-3.

Gracheva vs Giorgi :

Gracheva was so good in that first round. Arruaberrena hung tight and seemed like she’d find a glimmer of hope eventually, but Gracheva never gave it to her. Similarly, Giorgi got an early start against Martic and even while losing the second set she continued to press on offense. It’s hard to really predict her matches since she plays so aggressive, but it’s similarly hard to beat her when she does play well. For this one, I can’t really be trusted. Arruebarrena and Martic are such different opponents that it’s hard to gauge whose level was better. Gracheva certainly will pressure Giorgi’s defense, but she did lose in straights to Martic earlier this year, so Camila has to be a pretty decent favorite going in. Giorgi in 3.

Kontaveit vs Mladenovic :

Mladenovic was really sharp in round one. Her dropshots weren’t bouncing up more than a foot on some occasions, and Schmiedlova had no answers. Kontaveit had one of the hardest first rounds, and Golubic was up a set and a break and Annett managed to turn things around and win the match. Here, as much as Mladenovic played great quality and is an offensive talent, I have to give a nod to Kontaveit because Golubic was playing incredible tennis and Kontaveit still got through. Kontaveit’s power should keep Mlad from really playing as many dropshots, but it should be an entertaining contest. Kontaveit in 2.

Peterson vs Swiatek :

Really nice test for Swiatek here. Peterson is a player who isn’t likely to get blown off the court, but similarly isn’t going to try to do so to Iga. Some good rallies and a 6-4, 6-3 scoreline is what I’d expect. Swiatek in 2.

Williams vs Buzarnescu :

Serena played great in the first round, and I don’t always love her gear but the new green outfit makes her look like a superhero. Coincidentally, she is also one in her head. I love to see Serena win, and she is likely to get the W here as well. Buzarnescu moved the ball around exhaustingly against Rus, who seemed like she just couldn’t find a way out of rallies and forced some errors that weren’t necessary. Buzarnescu had great length on her backhand, and it’s the type of play that would give Serena trouble. Unfortunately, Serena has been beating quality baseliners that lack power for her entire career. She has a way of attacking second serves that yields cheap errors, but also puts a lot of pressure on the server. Her forehand is a huge weapon, and even though clay isn’t her best surface, this match is very winnable. Williams in 2.

Collins vs Kalinina :

Good comeback win for Collins in round one, and now things get tricky. Kalinina is probably the most dangerous qualifier in the event, and really beat down on Kerber. Given Collins’ struggles in round one against Wang, it’s possible for Kalinina to win again, and the only that makes it not an inevitable result is Collins backhand. Her backhand just creates so much havoc for her opponents that she can change an entire game just by getting into those BH to BH exchanges. Lack of matches though means lack of timing, and Kalinina is a cut above Wang in ballstriking. One more upset for the qualifier. Kalinina in 3.

Rybakina vs Hibino :

Will Rybakina thunk the ball long or will Hibino be overwhelmed. I don’t expect Rybakina to win a close match here, as Hibino should beat her if she’s able to get into rallies. Rybakina is a bit like Popyrin at this point. She can really beat anyone with her power, but doesn’t quite know it yet. Rybakina in 3 lopsided sets.

Vesnina vs Kvitova :

Kvitova has unfortunately withdrawn with an ankle injury, and honestly good for Vesnina getting some big ranking points in her return to the tour.

Azarenka vs Tauson :

Circle this one. This is an awesome matchup. Clara Tauson has been the biggest new name on tour this past season or so, and her game is really high level stuff. A great serve, and competent offense make her a future top 10 player, but she hasn’t really beaten anyone near that level yet. Azarenka is playing well, but not off the charts. She’s good on clay, but it’s likely her worst surface. This makes for a great fun matchup. If Tauson can win here, she can win her next round against Keys/Fernandez as well, but it’s a big if since Azarenka can play forever. Tauson’s recent losses make me think that a full match of offense will be a tough ask in her first outting against Aza, but I think she’ll do well. Azarenka in 3

Fernandez vs Keys :

Fernandez should really win this. Keys has all the power, but Fernandez’s speed around the court can extend rallies and earn errors. She has good experience playing big hitters like Kvitova, and her own offense is competent enough. Keys is the type of player who’s always tough to predict, but her win against Dodin taking 3 sets means she’s at a very middling level. Fernandez in 2.

Pavlyuchenkova vs Tomljanovic :

Playing into Sabalenka is a tough spot, but Pavs has more power, better variety, and a great deal of experience. Tomljanovic is still floating around that “might be good” level. Pavs in 3.

Sasnovich vs Sabalenka :

Diane Parry played so well in round one, and I somehow didnt realize she had a one-handed backhand. It is a great shot, and she was close to winning against a very good quality opponent in Sasnovich. For this match, it’s hard to say much except Sabalenka is scary good. Konjuh opened their match crushing the ball, and it just didn’t matter. Sabalenka is hitting the ball too big for the tour right now. Sabalenka in 2.

Zidansek vs Brengle :

Two relative upsets here. I’m still not sure how Osorio Serrano lost after all the solid and similar players she’s beaten recently. Brengle also gave Sharma a lot of trouble though during her title run, so there’s something to the veterans game. Zidansek beating Andreescu is a big win for her, but Andreescu isn’t quite back to form yet. Zidansek should win this also though, as she is a clay specialist and Brengle mostly capitalizes on her opponents errors. Zidansek in 3.

Siniakova vs Kudermetova :

I’ve been thinking about this match since the first day. Both played so well in the first round, but Siniakova struggled with Bouzkova’s consistency which surprised me a bit. I do think there are lapses in her quality, but they haven’t been as prominent during this run of wins. Kudermetova dealt with Anisimova well in the first set, but she proved to have a very simple time finding the open court at the end of the set. This continued in the second set, and it’s the level that she hit coupled with her defensive prowess that make her the favorite for me in this contest. She really is one of the more consistent players on tour ( a bit like Azarenka) but adding in free-flowing offense mean that Siniakova will have a war on her hands. I don’t think Siniakova hits any bigger than Anisimova, but her movement is better, so I’d expect this to go the distance. Kudermetova in 3.

Cirstea vs Trevisan :

Books had Konta wayyyyy too close for this match, and when she went up an early break I stated to nod. Cirstea doesn’t care what Vegas thinks tough, and pretty much picked up where she left off last week in crushing forehands and covering the court brilliantly. Her draw gets a little easier here, as she faces Martina Trevisan who I think is wonderful but not exactly bringing the weapons she needs to win this. Trevisan needed a win here as RG is where most of her points are from, and she got it. Oddly though, it seemed like she knew it was coming. She always seems happy just to be out there, and down a break in the third she was smiling calmly while sitting during a changeover. She took out a little notebook, which I assume includes poems about turtles, read a little, and went back to smiling. Then, somehow, she proceeded to win three games in a row and close out. I often get moved by the players reactions, but Trevisan broke down sobbing when she won, and that kind of genuine happiness really made me happy for her. Despite being lefty and playing a lot of defense, Cirstea should have a field day with Trevisan. Her power is just a big weapon and Trevisan’s defense isn’t any better than the players Cirstea has beaten this season. Cirstea in 2.

Kasatkina vs Bencic :

A “phew” moment for Kasatkina as Misaki Doi did what she always does and wound up in a deciding set. I’d say Kasatkina should be the favorite here anyway, but what Belinda Bencic did to Podoroska was next level quality. I came away thinking she could actually win this event. Podoroska didn’t play poorly at all, but was blown off the court. She had some break opportunities, but Bencic really crushed the ball from start to finish. Podoroska tends to hug the baseline which made it a bit tougher to deal with Bencic’s power, and I think Kastakina’s coaches will have her play a lot of looping shots and slices to slow it down, but Bencic was motivated from 0-0 and it’s a scary thing. In a season where Kasatkina’s losses have come against big hitters, it’s a tough spot to back her. Bencic in 2.

Hercog vs Garcia :

Bertens is Nishikori. Such great quality, but such a long return from injury. Garcia thumped Siegemund, and there’s reason to expect that she’ll do the same to Hercog. When these two met at the Australian Open, I expected Hercog to frustrate Garcia a bit, but the opposite happened. Hercog is very good when she has time, and Garcia takes that time away. Even when she makes errors, it still contributes to breaking Polona’s rhythm. Garcia in 2.

Tan vs Voundrousova :

Good win for Tan’s career in round one. Besting a veteran compatriot and a legend is so good for your confidence. She’ll need it in this round, as Marketa Voundrousova is one of the trickier players to deal with. It isn’t always just the variety, but the frustrating way that she keeps extending rallies that can be frustrating. Voundrousova seems to be playing at half speed at times, choosing to play position over power, and for a young player that can be a long day at the office. I’m a fan of Tan’s game, but she hasn’t won this caliber of match yet. Voundrousova in 3.

Badosa vs Kovinic :

Kovinic might be healthy again, which makes this a fun matchup. Outside the title winners, I don’t see a player on tour that’s sharper than Paula Badosa. She had a simple first round, and Kovinic thrives on hitting solid and wearing down her opponents. Badosa’s speed and ability to defend are going to be able to negate most of what Kovinic can throw at her, so it’ll just be about performing on serve for Badosa. Badosa in 2.

Osaka vs Bogdan :

Osaka has withdrawn from the event. I don’t really see what good can come of discussing it, but I will sit on my thoughts for a day or two and offer up anything I think is overlooked or useful going forward in my next post.