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Thursday, May 22, 2008
French full of fragile favorites


Trying to predict which players are going do well at the French Open? There are all the usual indicators -- who's been winning the lead-up events, who likes playing on clay, who's got a good draw, etc. But there's one x-factor which always adds a layer of unpredictability to even the most careful forecasts: injury.

So who's limping to the start line? With just a few days to go before things get underway in Paris, here are some of the players who have been injured to varying degrees.

Men

Rafael Nadal: Slight hamstring problem.

It's nothing too serious, but every niggle is noted because it's become clear that the only thing capable of stopping Nadal on clay these days is his own body. After being affected by blisters in Rome, he had some hamstring problems during the Hamburg final against Roger Federer. Still, as he observed after handing Federer yet another painful defeat, "I think if I played all the match like this it can't be a very important injury."

Lleyton Hewitt: Hip problems.

He's still waiting to make a final call on whether he'll be playing. Hewitt has reached the fourth round each of the last two years.

Marcos Baghdatis: Recent ankle injury.

He missed Miami for unspecfied reasons and has been out since hurting his ankle during Davis Cup. He comes into Paris with just three weeks' practice and lacking a coach to boot.

Women

Maria Sharapova: Slight calf strain.

She pulled out of the Rome semifinals with a calf strain but said it would recover well in time for the French. True to the diagnosis, she was back on court practicing at the French Open grounds yesterday.

Serena Williams: Recent back problem.

She pulled out of the Rome semifinals, saying, "I just went for a shot and then my back got a little stuck. … I don't expect this to cause any problems with my preparation for the French."

Jelena Jankovic: Cold.

Frankly, it would be bigger news if she didn't have one. It didn't stop her winning Rome last week.

Nicole Vaidisova: Recent wrist injury.

Pre- and post-injury, Vaidisova has struggled. She hasn't won a match in almost three months.

Marion Bartoli: Wrist injury.

She retired from Strasbourg this week with a right wrist injury, further dimming her hopes of replicating last year's run to the fourth round of the French Open and the final of Wimbledon.

Amelie Mauresmo: Recent rib injury.

She pulled out of both Berlin and Rome with the injury and has been losing early all season. The French Open has always been something of a psychological nemesis for Mauresmo, but this year the problems won't just be in her head.