World No.1 Angelique Kerber is desperate for wins right now – she has a tough first round opponent in the form of lefty Ekaterina Makarova.
(1) Angelique Kerber [No.1] vs Ekaterina Makarova [No.40]
Overview: Angelique Kerber must have been pissed off with her first round opponent in Paris. The World No.1, with an unimpressive 19-12 record throughout the year, kicks off her campaign against Ekaterina Makarova, another player who has not made much impact this year but can be dangerous when she’s on. The French Open is the last chance for Kerber to gain some ranking points ahead of the year – she lost in the first round last year and she’ll have plenty to defend when the tour heads to grass and US hard courts. The German heads into Roland Garros without a title since her US Open triumph last year, including only two wins on clay. Losing to the in-form Kristina Mladenovic in Stuttgart, more disappointing results came as she bowed out in the third round to Eugenie Bouchard in Madrid, retiring down 0-5 in the second set. Another early exit came in Rome, meekly exiting the tournament with a 6-4 6-0 loss to Anett Kontaveit. She is in need of some form.
Even though on paper Ekaterina Makarova has three Top 6 wins this year (all against Cibulkova), she is definitely not having a fantastic year either. Her best result throughout the year was a ritual fourth round appearance in the Australian Open – after that she is on a nine-match streak of not being able to pass the third round in any tournament. With clay being her worst surface, it doesn’t seem like things will get any better this month although she made notable wins in rome against Roberta Vinci and Cibulkova.
Head to head: These two have some history – Kerber leads the head to head 7-4. The German won their previous encounter in the 2015 edition of Stuttgart in a 6-2 6-3 scoreline. However, they have not met on outdoor clay before.
Random stat: Kerber is 4-10 against Top 40 opponents this year.
Thoughts: This should be a close match as conditions do not suit any player with clay being their worst surfaces. It is really difficult to decide with both players really in need of wins and confidence. Wary of Kerber but I think she’ll manage to take this one in a three-setter, considering Makarova hasn’t played her best tennis this year.