French Open first round preview: Aryna Sabalenka vs Jessica Pegula
Photo: Internationaux de Strasbourg

Eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka begins her French Open campaign against Jessica Pegula as the pair square off for the second time in a month. 

Sabalenka is appearing in Paris for the third time with a first round appearance in 2018 and second round showing last year. Pegula will attempt to win her first match at Roland Garros after losing in the opening round one her tournament debut last year.

The eighth seed reached the semifinals in Strasbourg while the American chose not to play any warmup events leading into Paris.

This is the second career singles meeting with the American having prevailed in three sets at the Western and Southern Open, although they have met plenty of times in doubles. The match will be the last on Court Suzanne Lenglen with the approximate start time at 6:30pm Paris time.

Sabalenka will look to use her tremendous power to hit through Pegula/Photo: Chryslene Caillaud/Internationaux de Strasbourg
Sabalenka will look to use her tremendous power to hit through Pegula/Photo: Chryslene Caillaud/Internationaux de Strasbourg

Analysis

The match is on Sabalenka's racquet. Possessing an enormous amount of power, the Belarusian often hits her way into and out of matches. She will want to try and win a lot of free points on her serve with Pegula looking to get the ball back in play and force the eighth seed to hit a few extra balls.

Control of the baseline is the next key. If Sabalenka has it, she'll keep the points short and end the rallies quickly. If Pegula is dictating, she'll want to play longer points and mix up her shot placement while not becoming too predictable to which side she'll hit from. 

Neither player fancies clay that much, so movement isn't an edge one way or the other. The damp, heavy, cold conditions will slow down both players' groundstrokes while each will look to create angles to hit the other player off of the court.

Pegula will look to reprise her upset from last month/Photo: Ben Solomon
Pegula will look to reprise her upset from last month/Photo: Ben Solomon

There won't be much net play here as neither player is adept coming forward. Facing off for the fourth consecutive tournament in singles and doubles combined, there won't be many secrets between the two.

Assessment

If these were normal conditions, winners would be flowing from both sides, but the conditions mean that whoever controls their game better will likely come out on top. 

While it would be tempting to pick Pegula to pull off the upset again, Sabalenka won't take the American lightly this time and since she's at least won a few matches on clay already, she'll control her game well enough to advance.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka in three sets

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