This year's French Open will kick off Sunday, 22nd May. The opening match on its main arena, Court Philippe Chatrier will see two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Danka Kovinic meet each other across the net.
This Grand Slam will see the Czech number one Kvitova seeded number 10, her lowest Grand Slam seeding since 2011 at this same event where she was the ninth seed. Kvitova left last year's French Open as the world number two but has gone 25-21 since then and enters this year's tournament ranked 12th. The dip in her ranking accounts for her dire results throughout this period where she only managed to win back-to-back matches six times, her best results being a title in New Haven in August, the final of the WTA Finals in Singapore in October, the quarterfinals of Indian Wells in March and the last four of Stuttgart last month.
Moreover, this marks the first time since her breakthrough year of 2011 where she enters the French Open with an equal win-loss record for the season, she is now 11-11 in 2016. It is also her worst season record entering Paris since 2010. In the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open, an out-of-sorts Kvitova was bounced in the second round by an inspired Aussie Daria Gavrilova.
Results-wise, the French Open is Kvitova's second best Grand Slam despite it being played on her least-favoured surface. She boasts an 18-7 record in Paris. Last year, she advanced to the round of 16 where she was outplayed by the crafty Timea Bacsinszky, who went on to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal. Despite the loss, last year's French Open marked the first time the Czech made the second week of a Grand Slam outside of Wimbledon since the US Open in 2012.
Her results on the dirt so far in 2016 have not been impressive compared to last year. Although she did make the last four in Stuttgart, she failed to defend her Mutua Madrid Open title and then crashed out in her opening match in Rome. It is still unclear whether the Czech has fully recovered from the abdominal injury which affected her performance in Madrid and Rome.
The top-ranked Montenegrin Kovinic is in her third appearance at the French capital. She made the second round last year where she was sent packing by local girl Kristina Mladenovic. Her best result in 2016 thus far was reaching the final in Istanbul where she came up short to local hope Cagla Buyukakcay. Earlier in the month in Madrid, she recorded her first ever top 10 win over Roberta Vinci in the opening round. The big-hitting 21-year-old is never one to be counted out especially on this surface.
Their first meeting came in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March. Kvitova after handily taking the first set was given a run for her money as Kovinic stepped up up her game. In the end, the more experienced Czech prevailed in a deciding tiebreaker and would go on to make the quarterfinals of the tournament.
It will be no surprise to see Kovinic hungry for the upset here. She was two points away from beating Kvitova in Indian Wells and with a shot at revenge, the young Montenegrin would not want to waste this opportunity and rack in her first win over the Czech. With Kvitova not in top form, the odds seem to be favouring the world number 57 as well.
In her first two matches in Paris last year against Marina Erakovic and Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, Kvitova went the distance but found a way to claw to victory. Coming off an opening round loss in Rome, the Czech will seek to put her recent disappointments behind her and avoid another early Grand Slam exit. With a lower than usual Grand Slam seeding, it could mean less pressure on the Czech's shoulders and if she is back to full fitness, she should not waste much time outhitting her opponent to advance to the second round.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova in straight sets