The French Open will kick off on Sunday with the women’s draw welcoming back two top five players after Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina chose not to compete in New York. The draw is however missing two of the top performers of 2019 in Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu. Last year’s champion Barty will not be competing over safety concerns while Andreescu is still dealing with a knee injury.
Full draw here: French Open 2020 Women’s Draw
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As top seed, Simona Halep has to be considered the favourite heading into the tournament. The Romanian has a great pedigree in Paris with two finals and a title in Paris. She remains the player to beat on clay courts and will be eager to make amends for her disappointing quarter final loss last year. She is unbeaten since the tour resumed, winning clay titles in Prague and Rome. The latter came last week as she held a 6-0 2-1 lead over Karolina Pliskova before the Czech retired from the match. Halep can get revenge over the player that beat her last year with Amanda Anisimova a potential foe in round three. The clash between the unseeded Iga Swiatek and Marketa Vondrousova is one of the matches of round one and could see an early exit for last year’s losing finalist although a Rome semi final suggests she is returning to some level of form following a poor beginning to post-lockdown tennis.
Having made the semi finals in 2016 as an unseeded player, Kiki Bertens has struggled to get anywhere near that in the following years even as she became a much improved player. She has yet to make it past the third round in her last three attempts with last year seeing her retire in round two when many considered her one of the favourites. She will be the favourite to make the quarter finals from this section of the draw but the seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova cannot be written off despite the Russian being at the late end of her career. Coco Gauff plays her first main draw in Paris, hoping for another impressive maiden run like she achieved at the other slams. Her form has been ropey since returning though with just one win in five matches. Facing a 2019 semi finalist in Johanna Konta is going to be far from straight forward for the young American.
Choosing not to take part in New York, Elina Svitolina should be in good shape ahead of this event. Having failed to live up to her ranking at numerous slams prior, two semi finals at the back end of last year suggested something of a breakthrough for the third seed. She will come into the event in confident form having made the final of Strasbourg. The Ukranian is one of the top players on clay with several titles on the surface including two in Rome. It does look like a kind opening week for her with Ekaterina Alexandrova far from a troublesome first seeded opponent scheduled against her. A round four against Elise Mertens or Anett Kontaveit could be troublesome but Svitolina is 3-1 against the Belgian in her career to date.
Somewhat disappointingly, a US Open rematch between Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams can take place as early as round four at this event. Azarenka finally picked up a win over her rival at a slam, having lost ten straight at the biggest tournaments. An unlikely US Open title was taken out of the Belarussian’s hands at the last moment as she failed to hold onto a set and break lead against Naomi Osaka. However, it was an impressive end to a month in America that showcased a newly confident and relaxed Azarenka. Meanwhile, Serena did look vulnerable in New York and it was almost surprising she made it as far as she did. She will need to move a lot better, something that will harm her even more on clay. She will face Kristie Ahn for the second slam running while the same could happen with Tsvetana Pironkova should both win their opening round matches.
The bottom half of the draw does look fairly open with Garbine Muguruza among the possible contenders in this side of the draw. The 2016 champion has had her ups and downs over the years since but showed she was capable of putting a deep run together at a slam by making the final in Melbourne at the start of the year. Her US Open loss to Pironkova looks less bad in retrospect but was disappointing at the time. However, she looked in good form in Rome. She lost in three sets to Simona Halep in the semi finals but beat Stephens, Gauff, Konta and Azarenka on her way there. Aryna Sabalenka played herself into some form with a semi final in Strasbourg while it will be interesting to see how the pair of Ons Jabeur and Jennifer Brady get on this fortnight. The pair are in the best form of their career, especially US Open semi finalist Brady.
Sofia Kenin will be eager to get back on court to erase the memories of her last match, where she was crushed by Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-0 in Rome. The Australian Open champion doesn’t have much of a clay pedigree but did put together a tidy fourth round run last year, losing to the eventual winner in Ashleigh Barty. The fourth seed will be favoured to advance from here but there are a number of contenders who could take advantage here. Elena Rybakina continues to improve and is in good form, having made the final in Strasbourg. Karolina Muchova remains a tough opponent while Fiona Ferro was also in good form prior to the US Open, winning a title in Palermo.
Although she has rarely done well at the French Open following her 2012 semi final, Petra Kvitova is still in a position where she could mount a deep run in Paris. She will match up well with the big hitting Oceane Dodin in round one while the seeds in her way of the quarter final are Magda Linette and one of Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber. Kerber has lost in the first round three of the last four years and could well do so again against Kaja Juvan. Meanwhile, Keys lost early due to a retirement in New York and can’t be counted on to be reliable this fortnight. If fit though, she could be the one to see off Kvitova.
Second seed Karolina Pliskova looked to be in good shape this month, making the final of Rome. However, her retirement loss down 0-6 1-2 is going to put some doubt in people’s minds as to her readiness. The Czech is also capable of the odd bad loss at slams as her defeat to Caroline Garcia in New York showed once more. 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko is more than capable of picking up the win should they meet but she must have one of the most bizarre records for a slam in which she has won. She has lost her opening round in three of the four French Opens she has competed in – winning the title in the other. Petra Martic will be hoping she can just remain solid and take advantage of the potential carnage with seeds in this section. Sloane Stephens has looked poor often while Alison Riske is far from comfortable on this surface.
Prediction – Simona Halep def. Garbine Muguruza