2013 French Open: Women's quarterfinal primer

USA TODAY Sports

Can Kuznetsova find her 2009 form against Serena? And where the hell has this version of Jelena Jankovic been for the last four years?

Serena Williams vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Matchup Seed AB Rank AB Clay Rank Head-to-Head Wins Head-to-Head on Clay Avg. opp. Rank (AB clay) % of games won thus far
Williams 1 1 1 6 1 75.5 82.8%
Kuznetsova
16 15 2 1 64.3 54.5%

Of the 16 competitors to reach the quarterfinals in either the men's or women's draw, 14 have won between 57 and 71 percent of their games in the tournament thus far. Serena Williams is the only one to win at a higher percentage (83 percent), and Svetlana Kuznetsova is the only one to win at a lower percentage (55 percent). Kuznetsova has looked sporadically great (as she tends to do), but Williams has just looked great.

That said, who won the last time these two met on clay? Kuznetsova.

Kuznetsova is one of the only remaining players in the field who possesses the high-level offense necessary to take Williams down, and she did just that at the 2009 French Open. And of the last four times they played, three went to three sets, and the fourth was a hard-fought, 7-6, 7-5 Serena win. Kuznetsova, a two-time slam champion, can hang.

So why is Kuznetsova unseeded? Good question. She has been maddeningly inconsistent of late, falling from third in the world at the end of 2009 to 72nd at the end of 2012. Still only 27 years old somehow, she still has a lot of potential, experience, and firepower. But you never know which version is going to show up. Serena Williams has been completely untouchable for most of the last 12 months, and she very well might be that way again. But Williams vs. Good Svetlana could be a hell of a show.

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sara Errani

Matchup Seed AB Rank AB Clay Rank Head-to-Head Wins Head-to-Head on Clay Avg. opp. Rank (AB clay) % of games won thus far
Radwanska 4 4 7 6 3 76.0 70.6%
Errani 5 7 4 1 1 70.0 69.7%

Speaking of a hell of a show, be sure to catch as much of this match as you can. Both Aga Radwanska and Sara Errani use every inch of the court and will put on a match so different rom Williams-Kuznetsova that it might feel like a different sport. Radwanska has taken six of seven head-to-head meetings in this series and wiped the floor with Errani in Madrid. However, Errani has won 10 of her last 11 matches at Roland Garros; she came out of nowhere to reach the finals last year and aside from a first-set injury and setback against Carla Suarez Navarro, she has cruised through most of the first four rounds this year.

Errani has also had a much steadier clay court season, reaching the semifinals in both Madrid and Rome. Radwanska, meanwhile, fell in the second round of both tune-up tournaments, and her game looked out of sorts heading to Paris ... where she has looked as dominant as any player not named Serena. If you need a reminder that every match and every tournament are different, there you go.

This is a gut-versus-brain match. The brain says that Errani has been too good in Paris over the last two years and is easily the steadier, more reliable player on clay. The gut says that Radwanska has dominated head-to-head and has looked incredible over the last week.

Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Kirilenko

Matchup Seed AB Rank AB Clay Rank Head-to-Head Wins Head-to-Head on Clay Avg. opp. Rank (AB clay) % of games won thus far
Azarenka 3 2 3 3 0 60.0 67.5%
Kirilenko 14 15 14 2 0 110.5 62.1%

Over the last month at SBN, we've talked a lot about the luck of the draw and how it can impact a player's run through a given tournament. When the women's draw was revealed, it suggested that Maria Kirilenko was not particularly lucky or unlucky with the way the field took shape. But there's another kind of luck involved here: upsets luck. Instead of taking on Lucie Hradecka (No. 40 on clay) in the second round as the AB rankings would have predicted, Kirilenko faced Ashleigh Barty (No. 107). Instead of facing Kaia Kanepi (No. 8) in the third round, she ran into Stefanie Voegele (No. 90). Instead of battling Na Li (No. 6) in the fourth round, she met Bethanie Mattek-Sands (No. 35). As a result, Kirilenko's trip to the quarterfinals -- her first at the French Open (she has also reached the 2010 Aussie quarters and the 2012 Wimbledon quarters) -- has been startlingly easy. She dropped just five games in her first two matches and handled both Voegele and Mattek-Sands in straight sets. She is well-rested and very much in a rhythm.

Now, the road gets much tougher. Victoria Azarenka has taken each of the last six sets in the series between the two, and after losing in the fourth round of the French Open last year, Azarenka has discovered her form on clay. She has reached the semifinals of five of the last seven slams and has won two (both in Australia); she is most likely going to be too much for Kirilenko, as she was when the two met in the Moscow finals three years ago.

Kirilenko has quietly taken care of business thus far, and it's safe to say her confidence is quite high. But Azarenka looked fantastic in thrashing former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round on Monday. She holds the edge here.

Maria Sharapova vs. Jelena Jankovic

Matchup Seed AB Rank AB Clay Rank Head-to-Head Wins Head-to-Head on Clay Avg. opp. Rank (AB clay) % of games won thus far
Sugarpova 2 3 2 7 0 71.3 69.0%
Jankovic 18 22 18 1 0 39.3 65.0%

Maria Sharapova is the defending French Open champion; after a series of injuries and a misplaced serve cost her a couple of years with mostly middling results, she has rediscovered her top form, reaching the semifinals of six of the last eight slams. And while her series with Jankovic was basically split for a while -- Sharapova took just five of the first nine sets -- she has dominated of late, taking six of the last seven. She thrashed Jankovic, 6-2, 6-1, in Miami earlier this year.

History, both distant and recent, suggests that this shouldn't be much of a match. But history didn't really suggest that Jankovic would reach the quarterfinals, either. Simply put, Jankovic has looked awesome for most of the last week and a half. This has been 2008 Jankovic, "reach the semis of three slams in a year" Jankovic. She hadn't made it this far in a slam since 2010, and on the heels of her 6-0, 6-3 thrashing of Jamie Hampton in the fourth round, she looks more than capable of handling Sharapova and reaching the semis.

Of course, you don't get very far in life counting on Jankovic to maintain form. She still bears the burden of proof, and Sharapova is still the favorite here until proven otherwise.

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