I was watching a recording of the 2011 Roland Garros Women’s Singles final over the weekend when a few things struck me. It was such an potentially important win for the WTA, sparking a rise in tennis in China with Li Na’s triumph. But also, I can’t help but reflect on how she just fell off the cliff the rest of the year. By the end of the season, she was openly admitting she had lost confidence in her game. Well, now 2012 is here. Maybe the off-season was just what Li Na needed to recharge her batteries. I certainly hope so. She has a game perfectly suited for hard courts. A finalist at the 2011 Australian Open, where she had Kim Clijsters on the ropes before “Aussie Kim” roared back, Li Na has the game to win her 2nd Major at the 2012 Australian Open. She started her year off well, with a win over the streaky, but dangerous, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-0 6-3, at the 2012 Apia International Sydney. A nice start, but this field is packed with talent so bigger challenges await. We will soon see where Li Na’s game is.
I also wonder where Samantha Stosur’s game is right now. Granted, she lost in the first round here to Francesca Schiavone, the same woman who beat her in the Roland Garros final in 2010. That’s a really tough first round opponent for Samantha. Honestly, I think the event should have seeded more than 8 players. By Schiavone not being seeded (she’s ranked #11 currently and would have been seeded 10th with #4 Maria Sharapova not in the field), there was a chance she would get a matched with another star in the first round. However, I don’t think you want Schiavone or Stosur out in the first round while lower ranked players get easier draws. That said, Stosur was ousted in the 2nd round of Brisbane by Iveta Benesova and now the 1st round of Sydney by Schiavone. There is so much pressure on her to win the Australian Open, especially after winning the 2011 US Open. I just don’t see it happening unless she really lifts her level of play.
Singles – First Round
(3) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (Q) Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 62 61
(4) Li Na (CHN) d. (Q) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 60 63
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) d. (5) Samantha Stosur (AUS) 62 64
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d. (6) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 61 62
(7) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. (Q) Urszula Radwanska (POL) 61 61
(8) Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. (LL) Polona Hercog (SLO) 63 63
Andrea Petkovic (GER) d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 62 63
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) d. Julia Goerges (GER) 61 31 ret. (viral illness)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. Peng Shuai (CHN) 62 46 64
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. Roberta Vinci (ITA) 75 62
(Q) Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) d. (Q) Melinda Czink (HUN) 64 62
(LL) Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) d. (Q) Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) 61 61