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Bouncer or Trouncer?

The Madrid Open is known for regularly producing results which don’t get replicated at Roland Garros a few weeks later. Petra Kvitova, Aryna Sabalenka, and Kiki Bertens have won this title — Kvitova three times — but none have ever made the Roland Garros final, let alone won the year’s clay major. Simona Halep does well in Madrid because she is an elite clay player, but the altitude has helped bigger hitters such as Kvitova and Sabalenka in the past. It’s not the best gauge of form heading into Paris.

It is annually one of the more intriguing questions in women’s tennis: What is the clay season telling us about what might happen in a late Parisian spring?

The Madrid Open is offering some fascinating choices to contemplate.

Yes, the obvious favorite for Roland Garros is Iga Swiatek, who has wisely not played Madrid to rest and heal. She has done a lot of heavy lifting and wouldn’t derive any unique benefit from winning in Madrid. She doesn’t need to do well in Rome, either, to be ready for Paris. As long as she is healthy, she’s the top choice.

After her, however, everything seems up in the air.

One way to frame the clay season and the Road to Roland Garros is to wonder whether a bouncer or trouncer will rise in France, based on what we are seeing in Madrid.

By “bouncer,” I refer not to a muscle-man at a nightclub, but to any player whose results or presence on tour is not steady or consistent. A player might bounce in and out of form very quickly, bouncing from an off-radar position to center stage in the blink of an eye. A bouncer comes from relative obscurity or a lack of form to suddenly catch fire and thrive.

Emma Raducanu at the 2021 U.S. Open was a bouncer.

Barbora Krejcikova at the 2021 French Open was a bouncer.

Or, will we see a trouncer in Paris, someone who is proven and reliable and steady, and who builds on a base of results and takes her game to the next level?

Think of Simona Halep, who is a tested clay-court performer. Ons Jabeur is the only top-eight seed left in the field, a player who built her game and results last year. They would qualify as trouncers.

So would Jessica Pegula, who keeps stacking up quarterfinal-or-better results at 1,000-point tournaments. She just defeated Bianca Andreescu to make the final eight in Madrid.

Lightning catchers or slow, steady builders? Which kind of player will flourish in France?

Hold that question in your mind as Madrid continues and Rome awaits.

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