Two weeks of sizzling tennis

2014-05-25 15:00

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The red clay of Roland Garros will be a constant feature on our TV screens from today until June 8.

For the next two weeks, screams, groans and grunts will be the order of the day as the world’s top tennis players fight to be crowned French Open champion.

As usual, there are favourites, pretenders to the throne and wannabes.

If you’re a betting person, it would be hard to put your money on anyone but Spanish matador Rafael Nadal collecting his ninth title in 10 attempts and dominant American Serena Williams claiming yet another title.

There are more than 11?000 points between top-ranked Nadal and Kei Nishikori of Japan, who is 10 places below him on the ATP rankings. Almost 8?000 points separate Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) queen Williams and 10th-ranked Slovakian Dominika Cibulková, but upsets can never be ruled out in tennis.

Nadal has amassed a massive 12?500 points, but he’s followed closely by Serb Novak Djokovic on 11 850, while newcomer Nishikori, who became the first Japanese player to break into the top 10 a fortnight ago, has a mere 2?815.

Williams has 11?590, with world number two Li Na of China on 7?549. Cibulková has only collected 3?705.

Nadal has had a somewhat slippery year by his standards, with his latest mishap a defeat to Djokovic in the Rome Masters final last Sunday. This was the King of Clay’s third loss on his favoured surface this year.

Does this make the Serb an odds-on favourite for this event? You can bet on that, but Nadal will not let go of his title easily. He is always a tougher prospect over five sets and has only ever lost one match at Roland Garros.

Yes, Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka – who’s changed his first name to Stan – dismantled Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open final earlier this year, but he can wear anyone down in a long match on clay.

Wawrinka, who is also the Monte Carlo champion, was bundled out of the Rome Masters by 15th seed Tommy Haas (5-7, 6-2, 6-3) and comes into the French Open as world number three, but he’s more than 6?000 points behind Nadal.

Then there is Swiss legend Roger Federer and Nadal’s compatriot, David Ferrer.

Federer will be making his 16th consecutive appearance at the French Open and will be eager for a second title to go with his 2009 win.

The women’s line-up has suffered a blow with the withdrawal of the world number five, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, owing to a nagging foot injury.

Williams would like to add this year’s French Open to her string of 17 titles, which would equal the record 18 slams held by old rivals Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Li Na, who became the first Asian woman to win the Australian Open this year via a 7-6(7-3), 6-0 victory over Cibulková, is expected to have a say.

And rule out crowd favourite Maria Sharapova of Russia at your peril.

We are set for two weeks of sizzling grand slam tennis, a dish that never fails to satisfy.

Men’s top 10 ATP rankings

1. Rafael Nadal (Spain) – 12?500 points

2. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) – 11?850 points

3. Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland) – 5?830 points

4. Roger Federer (Switzerland) – 5?125 points

5. David Ferrer (Spain)  – 5?030 points

6. Tomáš Berdych (Czech Republic)  – 4?330 points

7. Juan Martín del Potro(Argentina) – 4?125 points

8. Andy Murray (UK) – 4?120 points

9. Milos Raonic (Canada)  – 2?975 points

10. Kei Nishikori (Japan)  – 2?815 points

Women's top 10 WTA rankings

1. Serena Williams (US) – 11?590 points

2. Li Na (China) – 7?540 points

3. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) – 6?360 points

4. Simona Halep (Romania) – 5?140 points

5. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) – 4?741 points

6. Petra Kvitová (Czec Republic) – 4?600 points

7. Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) – 4?255 points

8. Maria Sharapova (Russia) – 4?141 points

9. Angelique Kerber (Germany) – 3?870 points

10. Dominika Cibulková (Slovakia) – 3?705 points

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