It’s usual to want to look forwards into the welcoming spring of May – for tennis fans, this is especially the case with it being the month of the second #Grand Slam of the year: The #French Open 2017.
A certain Ukrainian: Elina Svitolina, looks to have her best chance yet of winning her first Grand Slam in this clay court extravaganza at the famous Roland-Garros.
Topsy-turvy season for Svitolina so far
Svitolina has experienced highs and lows in her start to what promises to be a breakthrough season.
Svitolina has won 2 of her 6 career titles this season, in close succession in Taipei and at the Dubai Duty Free Championships, where she made short work of Caroline Wozniacki. In Taipei in particular, it was grit and guile, as opposed to playing the tennis of her life that led her to victory. That said: the achievement showed up an impressive ability to win whilst not playing well, a quality that will stand the 22 year old in good stead at her next Grand Slam – The French Open 2017.
The above successes have been counterbalanced by a poor showing in the season’s first Grand Slam; the Australian Open 2017. Whereby, Svitolina endured a disappointing third round loss to the underestimated Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova..
Elina Svitolina is only a slam short of truly coming of age
A scan over the profile of this steadily rising Ukrainian, already makes for Grand Slam winning potential reading. A big stage, straights sets victory over Serena Williams at the 2016 Olympics to reduce the head-to-head deficit to 4-1. This has been impressively followed up by victories over last season’s barnstormer Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki. This shows that Svitolina, on her day, can dominate the best. Contrast that with exits in the key American, Premier Mandatory events in Indian Wells and Miami - where she lost to Muguruza and Mattek-Sands, respectively. The latter defeat being her most disappointing and the hardest for her fans to swallow. Svitolina just needs to maintain her focus no matter what opponent is in front of her - she has the ability to beat anyone.
Halep, Bacsincsky and Bertens are potential obstacles in the way of Svitolina’s French Open charge
There are other players who will also be chasing down that first Grand Slam and who probably see the French Open as their chance to do it, such as the perennial underachiever; Simona Halep.
The rousing Romanian has been known to save her best for this particular slam – having reached the final in 2014, pushing Maria Sharapova all the way in a tight three sets defeat. There are signs that Halep is returning to form, especially on the basis of her close quarter-final loss in Miami - to eventual tournament winner, Johanna Konta.
Unlike every other surface, the talented, but frustrating 27 year old, Swiss player Timea Bacsinszky is the model of consistency on clay. Bacsinszky has made at least the quart finals in her last three clay court events in the 2016 season. Thus includes a last eight appearance and defeat to the Dutch clay court specialist Kiki Bertens in the last eight of the French Open 2016 (beating Venus Williams en route). It was Bertens again, who ended her Gstaad run at the semi-final stage. Bacsinszky, a semi-finalist at #Roland Garros in 2015 - could be a danger to Svitolina. Although, a left wrist injury forced her to withdraw from her round of 16 game with Karolina Pliskova in Indian Wells on hard court recently, so she will need to be at full fitness in order to stand any chance of finally realising her undoubted potential.
Bertens maintained a 23/5 win-loss record on clay last season, incorporating a French Open semi-final appearance, coming out on the wrong end of a tight game against Serena Williams. Bertens definitely represents a lively dark horse in this season's 2nd Slam and will definitely go further than her 150/1 odds suggest.
For each of these players, although dangerous you would still expect an in-form Svitolina to prevail against them.
Could Svitolina become the punters pal?
At the start of January there were odds of 150/1 floating around for this talented Ukrainian tennis star, who often proudly sports her countries colours on court. Now you have to scour the internet to find 40/1 (Betway). This still looks a good each way bet for what is arguably her best shot at winning that first Grand Slam.