While the men’s side of the French Open is seen as a foregone conclusion, it’s not so obvious on the women’s side with plenty of players wanting to stake a claim for the title. World No.1 Simona Halep, Rome champion Elina Svitolina, defending champion Jelena Ostapenko and the in-form Petra Kvitova are just four of the favourites to win the title while there is also former champions Garbine Muguruza, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
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Halep goes into the event as No.1 but will need a deep run to at least to the semi finals to ensure she stays there. While the Romanian’s consistency in making finals sees her at her current ranking, her current lack of trophies has opened her up to major criticism. Halep appeared to pick up an injury in her Rome final loss but should go into this event as favourite if he she is sufficiently recovered. Her quarter has managed to avoid many of the lower seeds or unseeded players that have the ability to shock the top seed if she is off her game. Kristina Mladenovic came into last year’s tournament as a potential contender but it’s not so much the case this year. She has found a bit of form after finally ending a lengthy losing streak but even the boost of a vocal French crowd may not be enough for her. 16th seed Elise Mertens was emphatically beaten by Halep back in Madrid, winning just three games.
In the quarter finals, Caroline Garcia is projected to face Halep. They met for the first time on clay in Rome with Halep winning comfortably 6-2 6-3. Somewhat amazingly, a title could see her at No.1 but that would require a number of different scenarios to occur. Despite her seeding spot, Garcia is far from certain to make the quarter finals and possibility isn’t even the favourite to do so. Kiki Bertens beat Garcia on her way to the Madrid final and is a very competent clay player. She surprisingly lost to Kirsten Flipkens in Nurnberg this week although not playing all the way through to the week will probably work in her favour. Angelique Kerber may be vulnerable as a high seed with the likes of Mona Barthel and Marketa Vondrousova looking for an upset win early on.
Third seed and former champion Garbine Muguruza has not had much hype coming into this tournament despite the aforementioned. Her play leading into the tournament has been far from great but the Spaniard has already proved she is capable of moving up another gear at the big tournaments – as her two grand slam titles so far prove. If she sees her way past Svetlana Kuznetsova in round one, it should be a fairly routine first week for Muguruza. 2009 champion Kuznetsova has found it hard to match her past glories in recent years but still has the tactical nous to make it hard for Muguruza. CoCo Vandweghe and Magdalena Rybarikova will hope to face her in round four although neither are great on clay – with Vandeweghe’s Stuttgart final looking like a huge outlier.
The final section of the top half is stacked on paper with 5 former grand slam finalists overall. Dominika Cibulkova and Lucie Safarova have since struggled but it’s the other three that all the eyes will be on. Karolina Pliskova made the news for all the wrong reasons recently due to her post-loss outburst in Rome but has to be considered one of the contenders for this tournament. Pliskova won the title in Stuttgart before running into Kvitova in the Madrid semi final. Serena Williams remains unseeded despite the outcry and will open against Karolina’s sister, Kristyna while Maria Sharapova begins against qualifier Richel Hogenkamp. Sharapova finally showed something in Rome with a semi final run while Serena looked way off ready in her return at Indian Wells and Miami. The decision not to seed her is probably about right but doubting her will be an incredibly dangerous thing to do.
Jelena Ostapenko has been provided with a quarter that could be far more difficult as she seeks to defend her surprise title. She most recently lost in the quarter finals of Rome, being edged out by Sharapova in a tight three setter. Her route to the quarter finals includes two of the more vulnerable seeds and Victoria Azarenka, who played in Europe for the first time in nearly a year at Rome and Madrid. The Belarussian has never been outstanding on clay but in a one-off could provide stern opposition for Ostapenko in the second round. It would be a surprise if the ninth seed Venus Williams made it as far as the fourth round while Johanna Konta was a round one loser in Paris last year. Konta was also defeated by Ostapenko in Rome with the Latvian coming from a set down to win.
Elina Svitolina goes into the French Open once again as Rome champion and may well be considered the favourite given her win over Halep and the Romanian’s injury. She really should have beaten Halep last year having held a set and double break lead over her before losing in three sets. She may face former champ Francesca Schiavone in round two while the possible seeded fourth round opponents are far more at home on hard courts than clay. Naomi Osaka was crushed by Halep recently while Madison Keys has not done a great deal to shout about either. She also withdrew in Rome before a meeting with Simona Halep, suggesting she may not be ready going into this tournament anyway.
A one-time semi finalist in Paris, Petra Kvitova is being considered as one of the contenders for the tournament after a stunning run of form over the past month. She won titles in Prague and Madrid before withdrawing from Rome for some much needed rest. Given Madrid’s difference in conditions, it may be reading too much into it when it comes to considering Kvitova as one of the top contenders. The final quarter of the draw contains a number of dangerous threats from Sloane Stephens to Anett Kontaveit. Kontaveit made the semi finals of Rome, eventually losing to champion Elina Svitolina in straight sets. That run contained three top 20 wins including an emphatic 6-3 6-1 one over Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniacki can return to No.1 after the tournament but it would likely be due to the failures of other players rather than her performing to a high enough level to earn it herself. The Dane has never really thrived on clay and has losses to the likes of Kontaveit and Bertens this spring. She also lost to potential third round opponent Pauline Parmentier in Istanbul but the strongest threat to her in the first four rounds is definitely Daria Kasatkina. The Russian already has two wins over Wozniacki this year, although they both came on hard court. Her Madrid and Rome runs were both ended by the eventual winners of the event but she was able beat Muguruza in three sets in Madrid prior.
Prediction – Simona Halep defeats Elina Svitolina in final