2017 French Open player profile: Lucie Safarova

Former world number Lucie Safarova is looking to build her way back up the rankings, after she suffered from illness, that derailed her 2016 campaign. Nonetheless, the Czech returns to the French Open, where she reached her solitary Grand Slam final two years ago, and has a chance to go one better as this year's tournament is wide open.

2017 French Open player profile: Lucie Safarova
2017 French Open player profile: Lucie Safarova

2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova enters this year's edition of the French Open unseeded and ranked at 38 in the world. The Czech number four will be a dangerous floater in the draw. Safarova is a better player than her current ranking suggests, and her ranking should be heading up in the right direction once she wins more matches, and builds up some confidence. The top players on the WTA Tour are inconsistent, and Safarova will be looking to take advantage of their frailties.

Notable results to date

The 30-year-old has a 19-10 win-loss record in 2017. Safarova began her season in Auckland, thrashing compatriot Denisa Allertova, 6-1, 6-2. She lost to fellow countrywoman Barbora Strycova in the second round. The Czech lefty suffered a disappointing second round exit at the hands of Risa Ozaki in Hobart. Nonetheless, Safarova was unseeded at the first Grand Slam singles tournament of the year at the Australian Open. She saved multiple match points in her first round match against Yanina Wickmayer. The Czech battled past the former US Open semifinalist in three sets. Unfortunately, the nature of being unseeded means that you are likely to meet a top player early in the competition. Safarova was up against former world number one Serena Williams in their first meeting since the French Open final in 2015. It was an entertaining second round clash but ultimately, Safarova lost to the eventual champion in straight sets. It wasn't a bad tournament for the Czech as she won her second Australian Open women's doubles title with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. It was their second consecutive Grand Slam doubles triumph after winning the US Open, the previous year.

The Czech put up a good fight against Williams (Photo by Darrian Traynor / Getty)
The Czech put up a good fight against Williams (Photo by Darrian Traynor / Getty)

Safarova recorded some more good results after the Australian Open, advancing to her first semifinal of the year in Taiwan. She lost to 2014 US Open semifinalist Shuai Peng in straight sets. The Czech advanced to her first final of the year in Hungary but lost to top seed and Hungary's own Timea Babos in three sets. The 30-year-old returned to the North American Premier Mandatory events in Indian Wells and Miami. Safarova defeated Lara Arrabuena in her first round match in Indian Wells. Her victory over Australian Open semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets was impressive. Her run came to an end when she lost to Venus Williams in the third round. The Czech's good run of form continued at the Miami Open. She recorded straight sets victories over Wickmayer, Daria Gavrilova in her first two matches. Ajla Tomljanovic and Dominika Cibulkova fell by the wayside in the next two rounds without a loss of a set. Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki halted her progress in the quarterfinal, and the Dane went on to reach the final losing to Johanna Konta.


Clay Court results leading up to Roland Garros

The 2015 French Open finalist transitioned from hard courts to clay in preparation for the French Open. Safarova began her clay court campaign at the solitary green clay court even in Charleston. She dispatched Varvara Lepchenko in the opening round in three sets. Safarova defeated doubles partner Mattek-Sands in the second round comprehensively. However, she lost to Laura Siegemund in the third round. The Czech returned to Prague as the defending champion and defeated Kristina Kucova in the first round. Unfortunately, her title defence ended prematurely as she withdrew from her second round match with compatriot Kristyna Pliskova due to illness. The former world number five is currently on a two-match losing streak as she lost her opening round matches in Madrid and Rome to countrywoman Strycova and to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni respectively in three sets.

The Czech's run to the quarterfinals in Miami was a good result for Safarova, who had been struggling at the big events (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)
The Czech's run to the quarterfinals in Miami was a good result for Safarova, who had been struggling at the big events (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty)


Best French Open result

The Czech advanced to her first Grand Slam singles final at the French Open in 2015. She became the first Czech woman since Hana Mandlilkova, who achieved that feat, 34 years prior in 1981.

Safarova entered the second Grand Slam tournament of the year as the 13th seed. She dispatched former doubles partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two tight tiebreak sets. In the second round, she thrashed Kurumi Nara with a loss of two games. She sent 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki packing to reach the fourth round of the French Open for the third time. In the fourth round, Safarova was up against the second seed and defending champion Maria Sharapova. Nevertheless, Safarova rose to the occasion and ended Sharapova's title defence, 7-6 (3), 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. It was the first time, that Safarova reached the quarterfinals in Paris.

The Czech continued to remain flawless in Paris as she defeated Garbine Muguruza, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard would win the title a year later and will be defending the title this year. In the semifinals, Safarova defeated 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic for the second successive year. Unfortunately, Safarova fell short in the final as she lost to Serena Williams, who won her third French Open title. Safarova did manage to keep up her impressive run of winning a set in every match. Nevertheless, she won the doubles title with Mattek-Sands. It was the Czech-American duo's second successive Grand Slam doubles title together.

Safarova (left) impressed at the French Open and did well to win the second set but Williams (right) stepped up to another level in the final set (Photo by Dan Istitene / Getty)
Safarova (left) impressed at the French Open and did well to win the second set but Williams (right) stepped up to another level in the final set (Photo by Dan Istitene / Getty)


How Safarova's game translates to the surface

The leftie possesses a two-handed backhand, and her forehand has topspin on it. Clay allows her time to project her groundstrokes with power. The Czech has the tendency to commit unforced errors at basic shots when she should be producing a winner. Safarova has good movement on a clay, and due to playing a lot of doubles, she doesn't hesitate to come forward to the net to finish off points. The world number 38 is a good returner, and she applies the pressure on servers when she steps into the court to attack their serve.

Safarova will be looking to take advantage of a depleted draw. Former champions Serena Williams and Sharapova are not participating for different reasons. Victoria Azarenka is returning next month for the grass court season, whilst Simona Halep has damaged her ankle ligaments after rolling over it in Rome. The Czech has the game to win the French Open, and clay is her favourite surface.
 


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