RG Women’s preview with Jo Durie
Originally published on: 22/05/10 18:19
tennishead: Effectively a defending champion having not featured at Roland Garros since winning the last of her four titles in 2007, Justine Henin’s the one to beat…
Jo Durie: Yes, she’s got to be the hot favourite. When she stepped on court in Stuttgart for her first clay tournament since her return, she just looked at home. Totally at home. I thought ‘oh boy, watch out everybody else’. Serena Williams, who’s actually playing well on clay would not relish a meeting with her [which she could do in the quarter-finals]. It’s horrible for anybody who has to play Justine on clay courts, especially at Roland Garros where she’s so at home.
th: What about that first round exit in Madrid when she was bageled in the final set by eventual champ Aravane Rezai?
JD: Well, she said she was sick after Stuttgart and she didn’t play Rome, so you know, as well as Rezai was playing it was obviously a blip – she’s still the favourite. Serena in my mind is probably second favourite along with Jelena Jankovic, who’s now playing very well. Serena has at least won it once before, so she can win it again, and Jankovic is really back to… as good as I’ve ever seen her play.
th: But Jankovic was beaten by Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez’s vintage brand of tennis in Rome…
JD: Yes, how about that. What a throwback! Whoever thought a Spanish player could even play like that! I think the other players just don’t know how to play her. As she plays more of them they might just work her out, but at the moment, she’s a real dark horse to go quite far at Roland Garros. Sam Stosur has also been playing wonderful clay court tennis recently and is very confident at the moment, so watch out for her.
th: Things aren’t looking good for last year’s finalists? Dinara Safina in particular…
JD: She’s having a dreadful time. Actually, the Russians in general are having a terrible time. But I don’t think Safina was really ready to come back. She keeps saying in her interviews that she hasn’t hit a lot of tennis balls and here she is trying to win tennis matches. I don’t get it. Why didn’t she wait a bit longer? Obviously she had so many points to defend from last year and she wanted to play well at Roland Garros, but I think it’s backfired really. Her confidence can’t be high after the losses that she’s had. As for Kuznetsova, I don’t know where her mind is. I mean, she’s reigning champion and yet what on earth is she going through right now? I just can’t see her or Dementieva, or Sharapova or Petrova doing well at all.
th: How about Caroline Wozniacki? She struck a career-high No.2 in the world, then injury at the Family Circle Cup in April somewhat scuppered her progress…
JD: Yes, she’s been playing through this ankle injury and she’s actually been limping on court. I don’t get why you would keep entering tournaments when you’re not fit? She wants to play well at Roland Garros, and ordinarily I’d say she’d be a threat, but not at the moment.
th: What chances do the British women have on clay?
JD: Clay is Elena’s [Baltacha] worst surface and I think mentally she finds it difficult to get to grips with it. But at least the clay at Roland Garros is the fastest you can play on, so I think she’ll have a swing at it – she’s capable of hitting winners. Keothavong as well, it’s not her favourite surface, but she’ll want to make up for her first round defeat to Safina last year.
th: It’s not impossible for British women to perform on clay – you made the semi finals in 1983…
JD: It’s certainly not the best surface for them, and people would have said it wasn’t the best for me; but I found a way to play my game on clay and that’s what you’ve got to do if you’re not an out and out clay court player. It takes great mental strength to really believe you can play that way on clay and I just think it’s a bit too hard for them. But look out for Elena on the grass – she loves grass, and that could be very exciting – but not so much on the clay.
Jo Durie will be commentating for British Eurosport during its complete coverage of the 2010 French Open.
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