In another in our series of Unproductive Conversations, the Post’s Kaitlyn McGrath and Guy Spurrier chat about the French Open, which began Sunday in Paris.
Guy: All right, Kaitlyn, let’s talk about the French Open, even though it already started today. It will take most of three days to get through the first round. What’s the one thing that will keep you glued to the TV every morning for the next two weeks?
Kaitlyn: The popular choice would be watching whether Rafael Nadal can defend and win his record 10th French Open title. But I’m a little bit more interested in seeing whether Andy Murray can continue his surprisingly strong clay court season (he won two clay titles this year, including a rout of Nadal at the Madrid Open). It’s an interesting Slam for him too because it’s his first French Open with coach Amelie Mauresmo, who is of course French. She never won the title there herself but leading her pupil Andy to his first Slam title under her and having it be at Roland Garros would certainly be a special victory for them both.
I’m also excited to see whether Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic can each continue their remarkably strong seasons. Both won the Australian Open title and have since had impressive match records (Djokovic comes into the French with a 22-match win streak and Williams also had a 22-match unbeaten streak until she lost in Madrid).
Djokovic is of course looking for his first French title and looks poised to have his best shot at it this year, which would give him the career grand slam. But if both he and Williams get far in this tournament, don’t be surprised when all we start hearing is whether either or both of them will complete the elusive calendar Grand Slam this year.
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Coach Amelie Mauresmo looks on as Andy Murray serves as he warms up with Grigor Dimitrov at the French Open.
Guy: I am also interested to see whether the men’s winner will be Djokovic or Murray, the two guys playing the best right now. Djokovic appears to have gone to another level, as he did in 2011 when he won three Slams (minus the French) and had 10 tournament wins overall. This year he’s already won the Australian and four Masters-level tournaments. Murray’s two titles this year are on clay and it’s a shame they drew into the same half of the draw. It ought to be a classic semifinal should all go as expected.
On the women’s side, I’d like to see someone come from the pack to establish themselves as a capable threat to Serena’s hegemony. It’s no fun just waiting for her to beat herself.
Speaking of emerging from the pack, who are your upset specials to watch for?
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic takes part in a practice session two days before the first round of Roland Garros.
Kaitlyn: Well I’m not sure if you can call it an upset if it occurs in the quarter-final but the most likely one would be in the men’s quarter-final between Djokovic and Nadal if they do end up meeting each other, which if all goes well for them, they will. It’s unfortunate the draw worked out that they’d play each other in the quarters since they’ve had some good final battles at Roland Garros. But whoever comes out of that one will certainly be the favourite to win it all, and the loser will face all sorts of questions (i.e. Will Djokovic ever win the French? Has Nadal’s dominance at the French come to an end?)
The way she’s been playing this season, No. 6 seed Eugenie Bouchard is always on upset-alert. Her draw isn’t bad and she won’t hit the court until Tuesday to face France’s Kristina Mladenovic. Her first seeded opponent would come in the third round where she could play No. 32 Zarina Diyas, who she beat a few weeks ago in Rome to snap her six-match losing skid. Then again, Bouchard tends to step up at the majors and seeing as how her best tournament this year was the Australian Open, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if she had a good result here, despite her recent struggles.
On the men’s side, Nick Kyrgios always had a knack for upsetting major names at the slams and he’s in the same quarter as Murray.
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Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes part in a training session prior the 2015 French Open. Nadal is looking for his 10th title at Roland Garros.
Guy: One of my favourite players, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, has people talking this year because she’s been steadily improving after announcing herself at last year’s French with her victory over Serena in the second round and her three-set loss the Maria Sharapova in the quarters. This year she made the round of 16 in Australia, beat Simona Halep in Fed Cup and made the semifinals in Dubai. Last year she also came into the French in a bit of a stall after a great winter season.
On the men’s side, I’m always interested in Gael Monfils, who always seems to be on the verge of something. He took Murray to five sets in the quarters at the French last year and has two clay-courts semifinals this year, including a win over Federer in Monte Carlo.
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Spain’s Garbine Muguruza celebrates after winning against Croatia’s Petra Martic during the women’s first round of the 2015 French Open.
And OK, the Bouchard question was going to be my final one to you. You’ve answered part of here. A first-round defeat seems very likely, though, playing a French player who made the final in her tuneup tournament on Saturday (losing in three sets to Sam Stosur). Mladenovic, an honorary Canadian because of her work in mixed doubles with Daniel Nestor, is no easy first-round opponent despite being ranked in the 40s. Until we see Bouchard win a tough match or roll through an opponent she’s supposed to beat, it’s hard to expect her to do well. Two wins before meeting Karolina Pliskova would be great. Three wins before running into Petra Kvitova would be a great step in the right direction heading to Wimbledon. Some wins in a Grand Slam will help stem the decline of her ranking, which will fall to No. 9 on Monday because she didn’t play Nuremberg last week to defend the title she won last year.
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Serena Williams speaks with Victoria Azarenka during a training session ahead of the French Open.
Kaitlyn: The other Canadian question mark is Vasek Pospisil, who is coming off an ankle sprain he suffered while playing a quarter-final doubles match in Madrid. He probably won’t threaten in singles since his second-round match could be against Andy Murray and Pospisil has struggled with consistency on the singles court. But prior to him rolling his ankle, Pospisil and partner Jack Sock were on a errr … roll. They won the title at Indian Wells and lost a close final in Miami to the Bryan brothers then made it to the quarters of Madrid before Pospisil was forced to retire. This will be the first major the pair has played together this year (Sock was sidelined during the Aussie Open) and it’ll interesting to see if the dynamic duo can win their second major title here.
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Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil won their first Masters title at Indian Wells earlier this year.