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By Chris Oddo | Friday May 25, 2018


Sunday begins the 15-day slice of tennis heaven known as Roland Garros. He’s some of the matchups we’ll be popping popcorn for right off the bat.

Garbine Muguruza vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

A pair of former Roland Garros champions and two-time finalists will meet in the first round thanks to Svetlana Kuznetsova’s low ranking of 42. The Spaniard has taken their last five meetings (including a win in the round of 16 in Paris in 2016) and the pair have split two meetings on clay. But let’s not forget that Kuznetsova is 49-13 at Roland Garros and though she has not been in great form in 2018 as she recovers from off-season wrist surgery, she could be dangerous at a place that is likely to rekindle her legendary competitive fire.


Rafael Nadal vs. Alexander Dolgopolov

Since reaching a quarterfinal in Brisbane in January Dolgopolov has gone 3-5 overall and 0-2 on clay, but past history tells us that the Ukrainian knows how to secure a win over Rafael Nadal. He’s got two victories over Nadal, and while they may have come a while ago that bit of success should give Dolgopolov a modicum of belief as he marches out to try and do the impossible in round one against the 10-time Roland Garros champion with a 104-2 record on best-of-five matches on clay.


Serena Williams vs. Kristyna Pliskova

And here we go… Unseeded World No.453 Serena Williams (just doesn't sound right, ya know?) will play her first match since being shellacked by Naomi Osaka in Miami against Czech Kristyna Pliskova. Not the easiest first-rounder but when one considers that Williams could have faced Simona Halep or Elina Svitolina in the first round, it's not the worst, either. Pliskova comes in with pretty decent form on clay, having gone 9-5 since Miami with quarterfinals in Charleston, Prague and Nurnberg. Williams comes in with 23 majors and three Roland Garros titles, but she’ll have shake off the rust quickly if she wants to avoid a repeat of her ugly loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round at Paris in 2012. That remains Williams’ only first-round loss of her Grand Slam career—she has gone 65-1 overall.


Stan Wawrinka and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

Another comeback story takes to the clay in Paris, hoping to salvage a bit of the season and reclaim the winning formula. This time, it’s three-time major titlist Stan Wawrinka, who has struggled to find form and fitness in 2018 after a double knee surgery last season. The Swiss faces a difficult matchup with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. It's actually a rematch of the 2014 first-round at Roland Garros, which was won by Garcia-Lopez in four sets. There is some good news for Wawrinka. He showed an uptick in form at Geneva on Wednesday when he hammered American Jared Donaldson for his most impressive win of the season, but showed how tenuous his form really is on Thursday when he had nothing left and was routed by Marton Fucsovics in straight sets. It should be interesting to see how Wawrinka holds up in best-of-five on clay.


Katerina Siniakova vs. Victoria Azarenka

Are you sensing a theme yet? Another player that has been struggling to find form and function on the tour will hope to find magic in a bottle at Roland Garros. This time we’re talking about two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who will square off against the very talented Katerina Siniakova in first-round action.

The pair have never met but it is Siniakova who has a little more form on the clay this spring. She just reached the semifinals at Nurnberg but has never won a main draw match at Roland Garros. Azaranka, meanwhile, has a 21-10 lifetime record on the terre battue which includes a semifinal in 2013.

What will Vika's clay game look like, now that she has a few matches under her belt? Grab your popcorn and let us find out...

 

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