Sunday, May 22, 2016

French Open preview: Ugly shorts, Louis XIV, dog food

   The French Open, which began today at 2 a.m. PDT, continues through June 5. Here are players to watch (seeding in parentheses):
   Novak Djokovic (1) -- More dominant than the Harlem Globetrotters. Northern California connection: None. 
   Andy Murray (2) -- Less popular in France than Lance Armstrong after dumping Amelie Mauresmo as coachNorCal connection: Won first of his 35 tour-level singles titles (fourth among active players) in now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose at 18 in 2006 and repeated in 2007. Also won Aptos Challenger in 2005.
   Stan Wawrinka (4) -- Hopefully, defending champion won't wear those shorts from the underwear department at JCPenney again. NorCal connection: None.
   Rafael Nadal (5) -- Nine-time French Open champion hasn't beaten Djokovic since Windows 1. NorCal connection: None.
   Kei Nishikori (6) -- More popular in Japan than sake. NorCal connection: Lost in second round of SAP Open in all three appearances (2008, 2009, 2011). Brad Gilbert of San Rafael coached Nishikori in 2011.
   Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7) -- No Frenchman has won Roland Garros since reign of Louis XIV. NorCal connection: None.
   Serena Williams (1) -- Only another case of nerves -- or serving of dog food -- will prevent defending champion from tying Steffi Graf with 22 Grand Slam singles titles, second on all-time list behind Margaret Court (24). NorCal connection: Won Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
   Agnieszka Radwanska (2) -- New Horizons space probe, which passed Pluto last July, is closer to Earth than No. 2 Radwanska is to No. 1 Williams in point standings. NorCal connection: Runner-up to Dominika Cibulkova in 2013 Bank of the West Classic.
   Angelique Kerber (3) -- Did fellow German Graf a solid by stunning Williams in Australian Open final. NorCal connection: Reigning champion in Bank of the West Classic.
   Garbine Muguruza (4) -- Has more international background than Barack Obama -- born in Venezuela, plays for Spain, lives in Switzerland. NorCal connection: Won doubles title in 2014 Bank of the West Classic with fellow Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
   Victoria Azarenka (5) -- Graduate of Gael Monfils School of Health and Wellness. NorCal connection: Won Bank of the West Classic in 2010.
   Simona Halep (6) -- French Open runner-up to Maria Sharapova (remember her?) in 2014. NorCal connection: Lost in first round of 2011 Bank of the West Classic in only Stanford appearance.

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