Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Needs a Big French Open?

By the time the French Open rolls around the season is far enough along that we have a pretty good sense of how players' years are going.  For those named Novak Djokovic, the answer is "quite well".  For players named Ernests Gulbis, the answer is "the season started?"  Below is a look at those players whose seasons have been a bit (or a lot) lacking, and could really use a strong performance at the French Open.

Eugenie Bouchard:  Heading into the year everyone was wondering if Bouchard was going to win a grand slam.  Now, people are wondering whether she will lose first round or second in any random tournament.  She was able to make the quarters of the Australian Open, but since then her season has been a complete disaster.  Not only has she struggled to win matches against anyone, but "handshake gate" hurt her likability.  If anyone on the WTA Tour needs some positive momentum and press, it's Bouchard.

Ernests Gulbis:  While Gulbis did reach (at least) the quarters in Nice this week, it's hard to find a healthy professional athlete in any sport who is having a worse season than Gulbis.  After entering the year in the top 15 in the world, Gulbis has completely forgotten how to win tennis matches.  He entered this week with a 1-11 record, and is defending semifinals points at the French Open.  If he loses early his ranking will plummet, and at this rate he'll be lucky to win a round. 

Grigor Dimitrov:  Dimitrov's year may not be a disaster like Gulbis', but it has certainly been disappointing.  After a strong 2014 in which he appeared to break through at the top level, Dimitrov has clearly taken a step back in 2015.  He's so talented that he could stay a top 15 player in his sleep, but now people are starting to question how good he truly is.  Yes he looks like a great player out there, but why does he have a tendency to mis-time so many shots and leave his backhands so short?  Now that he's a top level athlete and in great shape, shouldn't he be posting better results?  A deep run at the French Open would go a long way to setting Dimitrov back on the right track.

Ana Ivanovic:  Every time it seems like Ivanovic is going to become a consistently great player she seems to take a step back.  While she's currently number 7 in the world, most of her points come from a strong end to 2014.  If she doesn't pick up her level and fast, her ranking will fall accordingly.  She's got the talent and has won the French Open before (albeit a long time ago) and is certainly capable of making a deep run.  Why she hasn't posted better results so far this year is puzzling, as she looked to be hitting the ball well during the clay court swing.  If she can survive being upset in the first few rounds, her increased confidence may help her reach the tournament's latter stages.   

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