Orderly for men, less so for women

Rafael Nadal, above, is 38-1 at the French Open and could reasonably expect to play No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the final.

Associated Press

Rafael Nadal, above, is 38-1 at the French Open and could reasonably expect to play No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the final.

PARIS — The expected can be comfortable, just as chaos can be exciting. A good measure of both will be found at the French Open beginning today — keen anticipation on the men's side, offset by utter unpredictability among the women.

The men's No. 1 seed, Rafael Nadal, is seeking his sixth championship at Roland Garros, which would equal Bjorn Borg's record. The women's No. 1 seed, Caroline Wozniacki, has never won a Grand Slam event.

The men's No. 2, Novak Djokovic, is 37-0 this year and could eclipse John McEnroe's Open era record start of 42-0 by reaching the semifinals. The women's No. 2, Kim Clijsters, who last played Roland Garros in 2006, has been out since March because she hurt her ankle dancing at a wedding.

Third-seeded Roger Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles, more than any other man. The third-seeded woman, Vera Zvonareva, has not won one.

And so it goes. For the men, anything other than a Nadal-Djokovic final — besides an appearance by Federer, perhaps — would be an upset.

Anything on the women's side will be largely unexpected.

Today's schedule features matches for No. 8 Samantha Stosur — the Tampa resident garnered worldwide attention last year by finishing as the runnerup at the French — and No. 10 Jelena Jankovic, a three-time semifinalist. Among the men playing on opening day is No. 7 David Ferrer, who is hoping to join the list of Spaniards with a Roland Garros crown.

Most of the biggest names begin play Monday or Tuesday.

Nadal has maintained a stranglehold on this event, where he is 38-1. His loss to Robin Soderling in 2009's fourth round opened the door to Federer's lone French title.

And while Soderling (a two-time finalist, seeded fifth) and No. 4 Andy Murray carry hopes of capturing their first Grand Slam title on the red clay, it is hard to imagine anyone not named Nadal, Federer or Djokovic holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires in two weeks.

"Probably, this year, the favorite is Djokovic," Nadal said.

Djokovic smiled when he heard that. "I say he's the favorite," he said.

The women's bracket is less a funnel toward the finish than a blender. Last year's winner, Francesca Schiavone of Italy, was seeded 17th. Fifth this time, she is one of 17 or more players harboring realistic title hopes.

Serena and Venus Williams are absent, each with injuries, leaving the women's bracket without a seeded American.

Clijsters, who won last year's U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open, is a two-time finalist at Roland Garros (2001, 2003), but she has not played here since leaving the game to start a family.

The opening is there, perhaps, for Wozniacki. Then again, maybe it will be Zvonareva, or No. 4 Victoria Azarenka. Or Maria Sharapova, lurking at No. 7 and coming off a claycourt victory at Rome, where she beat Azarenka, Wozniacki and Stosur.

.Fast Facts

French Open

When/where: Today-June 5; Roland Garros, Paris

Defending champs: Men, Rafael Nadal; women, Francesca Schiavone

Today's top matches: No. 7 David Ferrer vs. Jarkko Nieminen, No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Augustin Gensse; No. 8 Samantha Stosur vs. Iveta Benesova, No. 10 Jelena Jankovic vs. Alona Bondarenko, No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Magdalena Rybarikova

TV: 1 p.m. today, ESPN2; 5 a.m. Monday, Tennis

Orderly for men, less so for women 05/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 10:25pm]

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