French Open? More like wide open in women`s draw
Paris: Trying to pick a winner in the women`s draw for this year`s French Open is like trying to get a ticket for the final -- nearly impossible.
Rarely could there have been a more wide open grand slam with world number one Caroline Wozniacki, last year`s winner Francesca Schiavone, injury-troubled Kim Clijsters and suddenly resurgent Maria Sharapova all in with a shout.
Equally, they could all crash out in the early rounds on the Roland Garros clay such is the splintered nature of women`s tennis at the moment.
With Venus and Serena Williams still ruled out with injury and Dinara Safina taking an indefinite break from the game, absolutely anything could happen in the west of Paris.
An outsider could easily emerge from the pack to take unexpected glory on June 4, just like Italian Schiavone did last year when capturing her first grand slam crown.
Germany`s Julia Goerges stunned Wozniacki to win the Stuttgart title last month and then got to the Madrid semi-finals before losing to in-form Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, another potential winner.
"The same as anybody else," world number 18 Goerges told Reuters when asked about her chances of taking the title.
"If you talk about the French Open there are 128 girls playing unbelievable tennis and hungry as hell. A lot of people have a chance of going far and there are always surprises and there will be again this year I`m sure."
Wozniacki -- top-ranked but still to win a major -- is creaking under the weight of the millstone round her neck and although she won her first claycourt tournament of the year in Charleston, the Dane has stuttered since.
Sharapova, yet to win the French having claimed the other three grand slams, has suffered a string of injuries but routed Wozniacki in the Rome semi-final last week before beating last year`s Paris runner-up Samantha Stosur in the final.
Her uncompromising streak underlines her newfound confidence having almost disappeared from many fans` radars following her last grand slam success at the 2008 Australian Open.
"I find it difficult to be having dinner with someone one night and then having to play them two days later because it is at the end of the day an individual sport and we are all very competitive," she said.
Clay had never seemed to suit the Russian`s game especially but her raw power might even be an asset on the red stuff given the frailties of many in the draw.
World number two Clijsters might have been a clear favourite for the title two months ago but after shoulder and wrist problems and then seriously injuring her ankle at her cousin`s wedding, the Belgian is struggling to be fully fit.
Like Sharapova, Clijsters has never taken the Roland Garros crown and with plans afoot to quit the game for second time next year, she is running out of time for glory on the clay.
World number nine Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who has a liking for the French capital having won the Paris Open in February, is another possible title challenger if fit while Li Na of China lost to Clijsters in January`s Australian Open final and cannot be discounted.