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Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-05-25

The French Open has been underway since Sunday, and the tennis world has turned its attention to the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris. sports editor Emmanuel Versace shared his courtside view.

What have been the early highlights from this year’s tournament?

Rafael Nadal has been struggling. He had to fight back from a set down to beat America's John Isner, who is seeded 39th in the world. Nadal has always had trouble with Isner, but [the struggle], was a surprise which has set the tone at the French Open this year.

There is excitement on the women’s side, because the tournament is quite open. There is no clear favourite. Caroline Wozniacki, the first ranked player in the world, passed to the second round, then struggled against Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak. The Williams sisters are not playing this year. Kim Clijsters, who has been this season’s most competitive player, was injured and just came back for this tournament. She won her first round match, but we still don’t know what she’s really worth. Then there is last year’s winner, Francesca Schiavone. Since her Grand Slam victory last year, we can’t say she’s been shining. She beat American Melanie Oudin Tuesday, 6-2, 6-0 but that doesn’t prove anything.

Wozniacki has not yet won a Grand Slam tournament. It could be her time, but the pressure could prove too much for her.

What is the atmosphere like at the French Open this year? Is there any trend the public agrees on?

After seeing Nadal struggle, everybody seems to think that his time is over and have turned their attention toward Novak Djokovic. In the recent past, the tournament has been dominated by Nadal and Roger Federer, but a new page at Roland Garros history could be turned. For the fist time, Federer is not the favourite and that means we are in new territory.

The public is very patriotic, and among the French, it looks like there’ll be another year without a hometown champion. Among the men, there are Monfils, Gasquet and Tsonga, but the crowds are not excited about any of them. Another disappointing year is expected for French women players.

Any revelations among the players at Roland Garros 2011?

It’s too early to tell. In the biggest upset so far, French qualifier Stephane Robert eliminated Tomas Berdych, a semi-finalist last year. But Robert is 31 years old and no one really expects him to go further.

There is Alexandr Dolgopolov, who is 22 years old and ranked 22, and was very good at the Australian Open. If he goes further he may become the highlight of the tournament.

Your pick for this year’s champs?

Everyone is leaning toward Djokovic, but I’m going with Federer because he’s the perfect outsider this year. For the women, it’s a hard call, but I would pick Clijsters because she deserves to win in Paris. She lost in the finals in 2001 and 2003.

Date created : 2011-05-25


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