BNP Paribas Open champion Elena Vesnina returns to the French Open looking for a great result in Paris to get her season going and make an unexpected push into the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time in her career. Ever since winning the biggest title of her career, Vesnina has been in a rut as she struggled to find wins and the Russian returns to the capital of France in search of the form that brought her to a career-high ranking of 13 back in March.
Notable results to date
Elena Vesnina had a 14-13 win-loss record this year, making it difficult to believe that the Russian is the winner of a Premier Mandatory event. Vesnina had a poor start to the season when she lost a huge 6-3 4-1 lead against Alize Cornet in the first round of the Brisbane International, before some injury problems plagued her just before the Australian Open, forcing the Russian to retire in her opening round match against Coco Vandeweghe at the Sydney International in the midst of the second set. Despite having a favorable draw, Vesnina crashed out in the third round in Melbourne to surprise package Jennifer Brady, who was ranked outside the Top 100 at that point of time.
However, her season started to turn for the better after the first Grand Slam of the year as she reached the quarterfinal of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, defeating Alize Cornet and Ekaterina Makarova in the process. Falling to lower-ranked players in the Middle East swing, Vesnina produced a huge shock to the tennis world in March. Defeating nemesis Shelby Rogers in the second round and the in-form Timea Babos, Vesnina had the best victory of her career in the fourth round as she upset world number one Angelique Kerber in straight sets. Her cinderella run continued when she defeated Venus Williams and Kristina Mladenovic to reach the biggest final of her career before coming back from a 6-7, 1-4 deficit to bounce back and clinch the title against compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova. However, she has failed to back up her results since then.
Clay Court results leading up to Roland Garros
The world number 15 had the worst possible transition to the clay courts from the hard courts as her losing streak continued. She did not have a great start to the first tournament where she has to defend a huge amount of points at after her stellar 2016 season, falling in the opening round after receiving a bye at the Volvo Car Open to youngster Fanny Stollar, who had to qualify for the main draw. It was a huge upset considering she was the defending finalist and was the fourth seed in the Premier tournament.
Looking to bounce back from her losses and send Russia back into the World Group of the Fed Cup, Vesnina earned a straightforward victory over Alison Van Uytvanck in straight sets to give her country the lead. Playing some poor quality tennis, Vesnina fell to Elise Mertens in three sets and, coupled with her loss in doubles, meant that Russia was on the receiving end of the biggest upset in Fed Cup this year.
Unexpectedly, Vesnina earned a confidence-boosting victory over compatriot Daria Kasatkina in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, triumphing in straight sets as she looked to get her clay season going. However, her joy was short-lived when she fell to Carla Suarez Navarro in the next round, wasting leads in both sets.
That loss was the start of a four-match losing streak (still ongoing) as Vesnina disappointingly fell to clay court specialist Irina-Camelia Begu in the opening round of the Mutua Madrid Open. Her inability to capitalize on golden opportunities in large-scale events cost her greatly as she failed to add any points to her ranking. The Russian lost another match that she was expected to win as qualifier Wang Qiang managed to get the upset in straight sets, leaving Vesnina in all ruins once again. Taking a last-minute wildcard into the Internationaux de Strasbourg, the world number 15 looked to get some match practice before entering the French Open and also to find some rhythm. However, she faced a tough opponent in the opening round as Vesnina shockingly fell to Camila Giorgi in three breadstick sets despite winning the first.
Vesnina at the French Open
Elena Vesnina has not performed well at Roland Garros in the past, with her best result in Paris being just a third round performance back in 2015.
As an unseeded player in the draw last year, Vesnina defeated Madison Brengle in the first round before losing to eventual quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, who was then ranked 108, in straight sets.
Vesnina has only won just a mere five matches in her previous visits to Roland Garros and was once on a five-match losing streak at this tournament. This would just be the second time in her career that she is seeded in this tournament.
How Vesnina’s game translates to the surface
Elena Vesnina’s offensive style of tennis definitely does not suit clay, which can be reflected in her previous clay results. That powerful serve often allows her to take the offense and additional time to go up to the net and clinch some free points there. Coupled with her solid groundstrokes, Vesnina can utilize some slices and drop shots in the midst of long rallies to move her opponents around the court. The slow surface would prove to be an obstacle for Vesnina as the defensive-minded players could be able to frustrate the Russian with long rallies and forcing her to commit many unforced errors.
The main problem would be the mentality, especially when Vesnina is 2-7 in her last matches. With extra unnecessary pressure as one of the Top 16 seeds and being the BNP Paribas Open champion, Vesnina certainly felt overwhelmed and struggled to find her composure and rhythm since then. She has to overcome this mental block and carve a deep run here to ensure that she can remain in the Top 15 after Wimbledon, where she is the defending semifinalist.