Welcome to the wide-open women’s game

This year’s women’s singles tournament at Roland Garros was considered to be wide open even before it began.

Pe’er and Clijsters 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Pe’er and Clijsters 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
PARIS – This year’s women’s singles tournament at Roland Garros was considered to be wide open even before it began.
With the quarterfinals beckoning, it is now becoming clear that “wide open” was a bit understatement.
It’s not that there have been that many surprises this year; rather, nearly every single match seems to be so evenly balanced that nothing can be considered a surprise anymore.
Sure, Kim Clijsters’s defeat to world No. 114 Arantxa Rus in the second round was a true shocker, but can anyone genuinely claim to be stunned by world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s third round defeat to Daniela Hantuchova (29)? Wozniacki may be the world’s top ranked player, but it is no coincidence that she has yet to win a Grand Slam event, and it is far from a secret that she is vulnerable against any top-50 player.
With the Williams sisters quickly closing in on the end of their careers, missing more and more time due to injuries, and with Clijsters likely to follow Belgian counterpart Justine Henin into retirement next year, there are at least a dozen players who believe they have a real chance of going all the way at the start of every major.
One of those is rising German star Andrea Petkovic.
“I definitely think I have chances,” said world No. 12 Petkovic, who advanced to the quarters Monday with a 6-2, 2-6, 6- 4 win over Maria Kirilenko. “But I think chances are always there. It doesn’t matter how the draw is. If I play well I can beat anybody in the world, so it doesn’t really matter what the draw looks like.
“When you see somebody like Clijsters going out, Wozniacki going out, you should be on your toes all the time and be aware that all the girls out there are playing great tennis. You just have to be 100% to beat them and go further in the Grand Slams.”
Perhaps the first sign to this changing of the guard was given at last year’s French Open, when Francesca Schiavone became only the second woman ever to win at Roland Garros despite not being seeded among the top-10.
“I think the players that are coming up are still not that consistent to be dominant,” Petkovic said. “I think it’s just a change of generation that is happening right now. That’s why the field is so wide open, because there is no dominant figure.
The top stars are slowly going away and the new generation is not as stable as it will be I think in two or three years.
“I think it’s also this new attitude of young players coming up, going into the matches with the top stars and believing they can beat them no matter what.
“That’s the difference. Because in earlier times I remember Steffi [Graf], the first four or five games in a Grand Slam actually didn’t matter at all. I think the reporters didn’t even watch. It was just a matter if she loses two or three games.
So that’s just not there anymore. Any player who plays a top star just believes they can beat them, and that’s the big difference. The attitude alone makes a huge difference.”
The extraordinarily open nature of the women’s game may not be to everyone’s liking, with many fans not enjoying the fact that the top three seeds have been sent packing before the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for just the third time in a Grand Slam since the beginning of the Open era in 1968.
However, even with no big names to follow, the intrigue added by the current uncertainty will make for a thrilling finish in Paris, and that is something no fan would want to miss.