On clay in 2016
Kuznetsova has not had the best clay court season of her career, though in general it hasn’t been a disappointment either. The Russian started her clay court season in Prague, where she recorded three tough wins before withdrawing in the semifinals with injury. It seems that she had not fully recovered heading into the Mutua Madrid Open, held the week after, as she lost to Laura Siegemund in a tight match, though she picked up a further three wins at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, before losing to Serena Williams; the Russian will be fairly satisfied with her build up.
Meanwhile, Shvedova has had a pretty poor clay court season so far. She won her opening match at the Volvo Car Open, but then lost in a one-sided match to Sara Errani and then lost in the opening round of qualifying in Madrid and Rome; she is certainly not in good form heading into Paris.
There is no doubt that on her day, Shvedova can be a tricky opponent, though she will need to play very well to have a good chance of pushing Kuznetsova in this match. The Kazakh will need to serve well against a decent returner, and must try to stay in rallies and try to force errors from the potentially erratic Kuznetsova. Also, Shvedova is a strong doubles player at the moment and should try to use her skills from this, such as her volleying and movement, to try and finish off points and dictate play.
Kuznetsova does have the stronger game of the two and, if she plays well, should be able to win this, though she can be erratic and Shvedova could have an opportunity if the Russian isn’t at her best. The Russian should look to serve well and dictate play, and should use her strong defense to try and get Shvedova to make mistakes. Furthermore, Kuznetsova should try to use her varying game style to remain a step ahead and keep Shvedova guessing.
Record at Roland Garros
The two have never met before, though both have recorded some strong results in Paris in the past.
Kuznetsova has a strong record in Paris. She has twice reached the final, winning the title in 2009, and has made the quarterfinals seven times in total. She clearly thrives here, though lost in the second round last year and will be looking for a much better result this time.
Shvedova’s record at Roland Garros is less impressive, though she has twice made the quarterfinals unseeded, including as a qualifier in 2012 where she knocked out defending champion Li Na. She has lost early since then, though can clearly play some good tennis here and will have some confidence because of that.
It would certainly be a surprise if Kuznetsova didn’t win this, though it isn’t clear cut. Shvedova isn’t in the best form, but can clearly play on clay on her day and may not make life easy for the Russian. However, Kuznetsova has played some strong tennis this season and should have too much here.
Prediction: Svetlana Kuznetsova in two sets