PARIS, FRANCE – Today is a day for the ‘must-do-betters’ of the draws so far, as the second round concludes.
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Naomi Osaka  v Victoria Azarenka
It is hard to know what to expect from Naomi Osaka this time around. The nerves she spoke of may have rescinded, the pain from her hand injury looks to have subsided but there is still an element that we don’t quite know what Osaka we are going to get.
She will need to figure that out rather rapidly because she is going to be facing a Victoria Azarenka on a significant upswing. There are still areas of the Belarusian’s game that need sharpening up since her return from giving birth to her son, but she has the hunger to go and hunt the big scalps, joking that encounters like her first round against Jelena Ostapenko, and now the World No. 1 Osaka have become common place as she works her way up the rankings.
Both play a hard-hitting game, but maybe Azarenka is a touch more agile if she is allowed to get her game going.
Prediction: Azarenka in three sets.
Serena Williams  v Kurumi Nara
By her own admission, Serena Williams said her starting match had gone from bad to worse, and could not get any worse, and she could only go up. She as a perfect chance to start stamping her authority on the match.
Nara has slumped in the rankings but has come through winning a round and plays a patient game – something that could get under Williams’ skin if she can’t utilise her more effective weapons.
With people still including Williams in the mix for another Slam, she will need to be back on point with her aggressive style of play. She can always be relied upon when her serve is firing) to make mincemeat out of the unexpected but more recently she has revealed a lot more vulnerability than we have been used to.
While this is good for the game and the tour in general to make it a more even playing field, the lure of having Williams finally equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Slams – in fact the achievement in the Open Era will be far greater. Is this the place to do it? Possibly not but this ought to be winnable for Williams – if only to get her a little bit of confidence.
Prediction: Williams in straight sets.
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The ultimate in the ‘must do better’ stakes is Alexander Zverev. Although gamely turning queries about the success of his year by pointing out he is still the World No. 5 and 10th in the Race to London, where he will want to defend his title – he is a long way from being seen as a credible Slam contender.
It might even be fair to say that without the intense speculation on him last year as one of the four top seeds, he ought to be able to flourish a little more.
The positives are that Zverev did find a way through, and he really should not have any problem against Mikael Ymer, who he beat a long while ago and is perhaps a little more familiar with his brother Elias.
This match is more for observation as to whether the momentum from Geneva can work for the German, otherwise he might well fall from the immediate running to lift the title this year.
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