Simon Reed

Smart money on Serena for Roland Garros

Simon Reed

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There are numerous candidates for the French Open on the women's side, but one stand-out performer who will surely prevail: Serena Williams.

The American has only won the title at Roland Garros once — back in 2002 — but her performances in Charleston, in particular, show that she is the best in the world on the surface.

On her day, the 30-year-old remains untouchable and there is no one on the WTA Tour that can match her power or intensity.

I have seen some of the odds for Serena prevailing at Roland Garros, and there is some money to be had, let me tell you.

Since Charleston, Serena has battered world number one Victoria Azarenka in the final of WTA Madrid and looked as good on the surface as I have ever seen her.

Her shotmaking prowess and power go without saying, but it is her movement on the clay which has most surprised and impressed me this year.

Serena's fitness is better than ever, and she is fitter and stronger than before with the confidence that comes from knowing that she can go three sets with anyone, while not dropping her intensity.

This really could be a memorable year for the star: she could, very conceivably, win at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and Flushing Meadows.

Only a physical issue could possibly make her level drop, or potentially fatigue due to the large number of matches she's playing at the moment; but such is her dominance in the early rounds I do not see it being a real issue.

She has worked tremendously hard on her serve in recent months, improving its efficiency: often she can serve 14 aces in two sets, even on clay, which can prove crucial.

The truly remarkable thing is the hunger that she has for the game, despite everything she has already achieved.

Beyond Serena, the other players that I believe have a serious chance of winning at Roland Garros are Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur and Azarenka.

The remarkable thing about the final in Stuttgart was the way that Sharapova fearlessly butchered her opponent from the back of the court with no respect whatsoever.

Sharapova, ranked second in the world, will now be buoyed ahead of the French Open after such a fine start to the clay-court season, and her subsequent victory at the Italian Open.

The 25-year-old played with such power and consistency in claiming both titles — it has been a joy to behold given her struggles for form and fitness over the last few years.

Having said all of that, however, I remain unconvinced that she can deliver at Roland Garros with Serena and Azarenka more likely to prevail.

Despite a startlingly poor showing in the final in Stuttgart, Azarenka has the class and the ability to win in Paris, and she can really produce the goods when it matters.

Stosur is a very fine player on the clay, and she has real guile and intelligence in the way that she approaches the game, to match her tenacity and determination.

As for Petra Kvitova, the Czech's movement tends to let her down on clay, and her power and belligerent groundstrokes from the back of the court are not sufficient for her to succeed on the surface.

From the last eight stage onwards, anything can happen — as everyone knows — but I make Serena a strong favourite for the tournament and believe she can perform to her very best.

If she does, we all know that she really is unstoppable.

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