Tough road for Williams sisters as BNP Paribas Open women’s draw announced

Serena Williams, seeded 10th, could open her BNP Paribas Open campaign against Victoria Azarenka in a rematch of the 2016 finals, and possibly face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruzu in the third round.

By Leighton Ginn

Serena Williams will have a tough road in the BNP Paribas Open with possible matchups against former No. 1 players in the world in her first two matches.

Her sister Venus won’t have much of a cake walk either.

The BNP Paribas Open announced its women’s draw on Monday, and the road to the title.

Serena, who won the BNP Paribas Open title in 1999 and 2001, is the 10th seed and will have bye in the first round. In the 96- player draw, the top 32 players have a first-round bye.

To open her tournament, Serena could face Victoria Azarena in a rematch of the 2016 final, which Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. It’s also a match up of two of the more high-profile working mothers on the tour.

Azarenka will face Vera Lapko in the first-round.

If Serena gets past Azarenka, she could face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, who is seeded 20th.

Serena has a 3-2 record against Muguruza.

Muguruza won their last matchup, beating Serena 7-5, 6-4 in the 2016 French Open final to claim her first major title. Muguruza also claimed the 2017 Wimbledon title when she beat Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0.

Venus Williams is unseeded and will play a first-round match against the dangerous Andrea Petkovic. They have split their four career matches, with Petkovic beating Venus in the Stanford tournament in 2014,

If Venus survives her opening match, she will then have to face third-seed Petra Kvitova, who is coming off a finals appearance at the Australian Open.

A two-time Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has a 4-2 record over Venus.

Leighton Ginn, who has covered the BNP Paribas Open for two decades, will be working with iHub Radio during the tournament. iHub will be live from 1-3 p.m. weekdays. You can go to http://www.ihubradio.com to listen or find it on the Tune In app.

French Open women’s preview: Can Azarenka regain her momentum

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By Leighton Ginn

More than every, women’s tennis needs a rivalry to hang its hat on, and maybe the Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka can resume on the highest level.

Unfortunately, it will come a little too early. If Williams and Azarenka play to form, they would meet in the quarterfinals.

But it’s a matchup that needs to happen.

Williams will go down as the best ever, with a career that spanned many generations. She might not be playing at her best, but Williams has still maintained a very high level despite not being pushed much.

Azarenka is one of the few fearless women on the tour who can not only beat Williams, but maintain a high level consistently.

The last few years, Azarenka has been hampered by injuries and her return has been slow. At the BNP Paribas Open, Azarenka showed she was back when she beat Williams in the finals. She followed that up with a title in Miami, claiming the two biggest tournaments in the spring.

But then came the clay, and Azarenka was hampered by back problems in Madrid and Rome, but she’s since declared herself pain-free.

Even if she is healthy, the French Open is tough for Azarenka, who has a 21-9 record in the main draw at Roland Garros and her best showing was the semifinals in 2013.

Going 2-2 on outdoor clay just doesn’t seem like enough matches for Azarenka.

But there’s been some positives that could work in her favor. Last year, Azarenka pushed Williams to three sets in the third round. Missing this year is Maria Sharapova, who reached three consecutive French Open finals before falling in the fourth round last year.

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And it’s a small consolation, but Williams has failed to win a title in her last two majors. This year, she’s showed signs of failing to finish tournaments, falling in the Australian Open final as well as the BNP Paribas Open.

But Williams did win Rome and should carry that momentum into Roland Garros. But the question does remain with Williams and her nerves, which have bothered her of late.

If Williams does get past Azarenka, she will have other tough challenges, including Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in a possible semifinal matchup.

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However, Kerber has lost her opening matches four times since the Australian Open, although she did claim an indoor clay title in Stuttgart.

Two of those opening-match losses came in the key warmup tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

Last year’s French Open finalist, Lucie Safarova, has struggled this year, losing in the first round of her first five tournaments this year before taking the title in Prague, an outdoor clay tournament.

But outside of Prague, Safarova is 2-7 on the year, having lost in the second round of her last two tournaments entering Roland Garros.

 

 

 

 

Hall of Famer Rosie Casals picks Serena Williams to complete Grand Slam

For Rosie Casals, picking the favorite for the 2015 US Open is pretty easy — It’s Serena Williams’ title to win or lose.

This year, Williams has dominated the tour like no other and has won four consecutive major title for her second Serena Slam. But a victory in the US Open will give Williams her first calendar-year Grand Slam, which is winning all four major titles in a single season. If Williams accomplishes the Grand Slam, she will be the first player to do so since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Despite all the pressure that comes with trying to complete the Grand Slam, Casals, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1996, believes Williams is well equip to handle any situation.

Serena Williams talks to the media during the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Serena Williams talks to the media during the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

As for the rest of the field, Casals doesn’t seeing anyone capable of beating Williams.

But Williams can be vulnerable in the early rounds, and that’s what Casals warns again.

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Simona Halep will be the No. 2 seed, but Casals doesn’t feel she has the weapons to threaten Williams.

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Sharapova is the No. 3 seed, and the only other player who is a multiple major winner and a former US Open champion. But Williams has her number.

In the clip, Casals also breaks down Caroline Wozniacki, a finalist last year, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, and 2014 darling Eugenie Bouchard.

 

Who do you think will win the women’s title? Click on the link below to vote for your favorite

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