French Open Ladies Singles Day Two: Siniakova can shock rusty Azarenka

Czech Tennis Player Petra Kvitova
Outright selection Petra Kvitova starts her campaign today...
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With 24 matches on today's schedule, the ladies singles event at the French Open continues, and back to preview the action is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...

"After returning to the tour from pregnancy, Azarenka’s results haven’t been the best, although she performed well on slow hard courts in March in Miami, reaching the semi-finals. However, on clay, she’s not really shown much of a level at all, and her thrashing at the hands of Naomi Osaka - not nearly a clay specialist herself - in Rome several weeks ago gives an indication of her current level."

Defending champion Ostapenko among the big names dumped out on day one

Day one at the French Open saw shocks and big name exits with defending champion Jelena Ostapenko the biggest casualty. I mentioned in the pre-tournament previews that the Latvian still had much to prove, and this was evidenced by Kateryna Kozlova's straight-set victory.

We also saw Venus Williams exit in straight sets, to Yafan Wang, while Johanna Konta's clay misery continued in two sets against Yulia Putintseva, which preceded an angry rant at the media, almost blaming them for her defeat. I'm not entirely sure that the media are causing Konta's issues in Paris, given that her level on clay - regardless of the venue - is extremely mediocre.

Svitolina strengthens position at the top of the outright market

Tournament favourite Elina Svitolina overcame a disastrous start, recovering from 1-5 down in the opening set to defeat Alja Tomljanovic 7-5 6-3, and the market appears to like what it saw, firming up the Ukrainian's position at the top of the tournament winner market.

I mentioned yesterday that value was thin on the ground on the ladies card yesterday, and there are some better options today.

Improving Pera value against veteran Vesnina

Bernarda Pera is a rapidly improving American 23 year old, and has recorded some superb results on clay this season for a player of her relatively low ranking, reaching the quarter-finals in Charleston, where she pushed Madison Keys all the way, and then reaching the third round in Madrid, beating Konta and Aryna Sabalenka en route to a tight final set loss to Carla Suarez Navarro.

This really should have been of little suprise, given her stunning results in her last five ITF clay events in 2017. These read runner-up/semi-final/winner/runner-up/winner, and it's clear that she's a player on an upward curve.

At 31 years of age, this isn't really the case for her opponent today, Elina Vesnina, and my data gives Pera a marginal edge against the Russian veteran, who hasn't shown particular aptitude on clay for several years now. Pera is [1.98] in what is a 'pick-em' match to move into round two, and I do like this price on her here.

Siniakova a value underdog against rusty Azarenka

Looking at some of the other matches on the schedule, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Katerina Siniakova get the better of Victoria Azarenka. The 22 year old Czech, Siniakova, reached the semi-finals in Nurnberg last week, so is in good touch, and her defeats this season on clay have come against solid players on the surface - there are no shocking performances.

After returning to the tour from pregnancy, Azarenka's results have been hit and miss, although she performed well on slow hard courts in March in Miami, reaching the semi-finals. However, on clay, she's not really shown much at all, and her thrashing at the hands of Naomi Osaka - not nearly a clay specialist herself - in Rome several weeks ago gives an indication of her current level.

In truth, even at her peak, Azarenka was really nothing special on clay - a top ten player, but nothing more than that - and Siniakova has an excellent chance as a [3.00] underdog to send the Belarussian packing today.

Outright pick Kvitova among big names in action on day two

In other matches, our main outright selection, Petra Kvitova, opens her campaign against Veronica Cepede, while the aforementioned Keys needs to demonstrate her fitness for the event, although an opener against her American compatriot, Sachia Vickery, is about as soft an opening round test as she could hope for. Maria Shaparova faces the competent Richel Hogenkamp in the late afternoon match.

Some of the more competitive matches on day two include Daria Kasatkina against Kaia Kanepi, two out of form players in the shape of Andrea Petkovic and Kristina Mladenovic, and Laura Siegemund versus the big-server, Coco Vandeweghe, in what is a battle of somewhat contrasting styles.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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