Considering how “wide-open” this French Open women’s draw was supposed to be, there are an awful lot of familiar names left in the brackets as we close the first week. Ironically, the men’s draw contains more newcomers, as staples such as Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are long gone.
No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 13 Kristina Mladenovic (Mlandenovic leads head-to-head 1-0)
Nobody pays much attention to Raonic during the clay-court season, mainly because his serve-based game is so much better suited to hard courts. Yet Raonic moves very well for a man of his size, and a serve such as his is a massive weapon on any surface. The 26-year-old Canadian has quietly slashed his way through this draw but could call attention to himself with a win over Carreno Busta, who hit his career-high ranking of No. 18 just this month. Raonic won their three previous meetings, but none was on Carreno Busta’s preferred surface of clay.
Carreno Busta had a solid run-up to the French Open, but he has taken it to another level in Paris — the high being point his third-round, straight-sets win over Grigor Dimitrov. Although a clay-courter, Carreno Busta has fifty more winners than unforced errors (145-95), and he has won a hair less than 60 percent of his second-serve points. That means he’s playing aggressive tennis, but so is Raonic. Although his last opponent retired early in their match, Raonic has still logged 119 winners for the tournament and has averaged 17 aces in his two completed matches.
No. 10 seed Venus Williams vs. No. 30 seed Timea Bacsinszky (Williams leads series 3-1)
This is a rematch of last year’s fourth-round clash, which Bacsinszky won. But Williams is too experienced and too focused on this excellent opportunity to add a French Open title to her dazzling résumé to dwell on revenge fantasies. Barely two weeks from her 37th birthday, Williams knows she can make history if she can play consistent but aggressive tennis.
Bacsinszky is still waiting to hit her first ace at this tournament. Williams has hit eight thus far, but she has also tossed in 16 double faults. It’s important because Williams’ serve is her most powerful weapon, and the relative weakness of her ground game on clay is evident in the trouble she has had defending her second serve. She won just 42 percent of her second-serve points.