At 95 decibels, the Belarusian’s grunt outpoints a Harley-Davidson, but this is one occasion where the bite is worse than the bark. The world No. 1 has earned the top seed in Paris in dominating fashion, winning the Australian Open last January – her first Grand Slam title – as part of an epic 26-match win streak to start the season, but doubts remain about her clay-court ability and an apparent right-shoulder injury.
Her life changed irrevocably when she became the first Chinese to win a Grand Slam tournament (at Roland Garros last year) – so much so she hasn’t won a tournament since. But the 30-year-old finally has a grip on the situation – “I wasted half a year to learn life,” she said of trying to cope with the new-found fame in her homeland – and seeded seventh, Na will be a match for anyone, especially having found her feet on clay once more by reaching last week’s Italian Open final.
Unbeaten in 17 matches on clay so far this year – her injury-enforced withdrawal in the semi-finals of the Italian Open last week doesn’t count as a loss – the 13-time Grand Slam champion is seemingly hell-bent, and confident, of winning a second French Open title (her first in a decade). When it was pointed out to her the last five Grand Slams have been won by five different women, Williams didn’t miss a beat: “Hopefully, it will be six this time – with me.”
Famous for her looks – she was the only female tennis player to make Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list this week – and romance with reigning U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy, the Dane has been sadly lacking when it comes to winning a major tournament of her own. Having begun the year as world No. 1, Wozniacki has been falling since the Australian Open and, currently ranked No. 9, she needs a decent showing at Roland Garros to arrest her rapid decline.
The Russian will be looking to fill the lone hole in her Grand Slam résumé, and after a few years in the tennis wilderness, she may have rediscovered the form to enable her to do it. Winning last week’s Italian Open for the second consecutive year certainly illustrates her credentials on clay, but the world No. 2 will have the odds stacked against her: it’s been 10 years since anyone used Rome as a springboard to success in Paris.