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Competition or Surface: What's the Best Way to Prepare for the French Open?

Fresh off winning her first title of the year last weekend in Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida, Caroline Wozniacki is keeping it rolling this week at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. She has to be the heavy favorite to win the title with the form she's been displaying.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the WTA calendar, Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci have advanced to the finals in Barcelona, a good result for both players.

But I'm left wondering something related to both of these events:

Which one is better preparation for the queen of clay-court tournaments, the French Open?

Is it the Family Circle Cup, which had six top 20 players in the draw, making for the stronger field, but played on Har-Tru courts? Or is it Barcelona, which only had two top-20 players entered and none in the top 10, but is played in Europe on the red clay similar to Roland Garros?

It's hard to say because over the past 20 years, the prolific French Open winners such as Justine Henin, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Steffi Graf all have won titles on the green stuff, and in the years they bagged the big one.

But is that just a testament to their ability? After all, they each have Hall of Fame stats. It must be because from what I gather, even though the Har-tru is referred to as "clay," it plays almost like a different surface compared to the red stuff. The weather also has a big impact on the playing conditions, and the climes in the "Southern Swing" and Paris in the springtime couldn't be more different.

So why play in the U.S. this time of year? Not that I really have any complaints: It's great to see a few tournaments holding court here. Aside from the competition and surface differences, money plays a big part as the pot in Charleston is more than three times the size of the one in Barcelona.

I'm going to inject myself into the middle of this thrilling debate and say that if I were a French Open contender, I would be playing exclusively on red clay. It'll be interesting to see who goes further at the French: Schiavone or Wozniacki. And what will be the bigger factor in determining that? Acclimation, competition or just pure talent? We'll see soon enough!

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Comment by Sharapovanovic on April 19, 2010 at 5:15pm
I agree that, if I were playing in the WTA, I would choose the tournament with the better competition. In this era, roughly the same group of players tends to perform well on virtually all of the surfaces, as far as the WTA is concerned. Overall talent is much more of a determining factor in a match than surface comfort, whereas in the ATP there are plenty of clay-court specialists who can upset the top seeds. And, if Wozniacki is healthy in time for Roland Garros, she'll be a contender (albeit not a top contender) to win the title, whereas I can't picture Schiavone in that position.
Comment by mikeindo on April 17, 2010 at 12:13am
If i had to chose, my opinion would be the competition. sure, the red clay is slower and just like RG, but if you're a top player, you'll want to see how you match up with the other top players while on the green stuff. plus, you'll be on a different surface than RG, but at least you and your fellow players will be on the SAME surface.

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