French Open preview: A closer look at the women's draw and top contenders

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Contender: Simona Halep.

PARIS — The French Open kicks off on Sunday and the women’s draw couldn’t feel more open.

In the absence of Serena Williams (pregnant), Maria Sharapova (no wildcard) and Victoria Azarenka (maternity leave), and with the likes of Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza struggling to find consistency and form, the list of contenders for Roland Garros this year can populate a phone book.

With many players also carrying injuries, it’s tough to figure out who will make it our of the two weeks in one piece.

Here’s a closer look at the women’s draw, which will see the return of Petra Kvitova, who is back from a six-month absence after she was attacked by a home invader who injured her left playing hand with a knife.

Also don’t miss our men’s draw preview here

Top seeds


The German world No1 does not hide her feelings when it comes to her relationship with clay and her record at the French Open is her worst compared to all the other Grand Slams. Her opener against Ekaterina Makarova is not the best of draws for Kerber, who also has Sam Stosur and Svetlana Kuznetsova in her quarter. An early exit would be no surprise for the struggling top seed.


The Czech world No2 laughed when she was told that some people have put her as a contender for the French Open title. “I think there is nobody who would do this,” Pliskova said frankly. She’s not entirely wrong. The 2016 US Open runner-up has won just two main draw matches at Roland Garros in her career and joked before when asked to describe her relationship with clay – “It’s complicated” she said in Madrid. Her draw is not the toughest but getting through one match will be a real achievement for Pliskova – at least that’s what she says.

Up until a week ago, Halep was the outright favourite for the title. But an ankle injury (small ligament tear) she sustained in the Rome final against Elina Svitolina means that her participation was up in the air up until Saturday and her movement might be restricted if she does play. Halep had a tremendous clay season this year, winning Madrid and reaching the Rome final but the Romanian continues to be struck by bad luck at the worst possible time.

The curious case of Garbine Muguruza continues. The Spaniard has won just three titles in her career. One of them is the French Open. She hasn’t reached a final since last year’s Roland Garros and seems to only turn up for (some of) the Slams. She showed some good form in Rome earlier this month before retiring from her semi-final with a neck injury. Her draw is very tough and we could see her bow out early to either Schiavone or Kontaveit.

💭 @rolandgarros

A post shared by Светлана Кузнецова/Kuznetsova (@svetlanak27) on

Favourites

Simona Halep

Yes, I refuse to rule out the Romanian. I’m emotionally attached like that!

Svetlana Kuznetsova

In 14 Roland Garros appearances, Kuznetsova has made the second week 11 times. She’s reached the quarters seven times, made the semis three times and won the title in 2009. Her topspin on clay is a thing of beauty, and not many players know how to handle it, and she’s put together a solid 20-9 season so far in 2017.

Elina Svitolina

The Rome champion’s stats this season are just wow! A perfect 5-0 against top-five opponents in 2017, leader of the Road to Singapore standings, four titles in 2017, most match wins… the list goes on and on. Roland Garros witnessed her best Grand Slam result to date – a quarter-final showing in 2015, and she won the junior title here in 2010. She had a thigh problem during her Rome final win over Halep which should dampen our expectations of the Ukrainian but we’re sticking to our guns on this one.

Dark horses

Sam Stosur

Feels a little odd calling Stosur a dark horse but you never really know with the 23rd-seeded Aussie. The 2010 runner-up made the semis last year (and in 2009 and 2012) and comes to Paris having reached the final in Strasbourg. She’s in that top quarter of the draw with Kerber and can easily make the last-eight if she wants to.

Anett Kontaveit

The 21-year-old Estonian is playing just her second Roland Garros main draw but she comes to Paris with some impressive results under her belt. She beat Kerber in Rome (made the quarter-finals as a qualifier), Muguruza in Stuttgart (also made quarters as a qualifier) and earlier reached the final in Biel. She can be a tricky hurdle for Muguruza in the second round here in Paris.

Kiki Bertens

Last year’s semi-finalist Kiki Bertens won the title in Nurnberg on Saturday and made the semis in Rome the week before. She comes to Paris with lots of confidence and can have another solid run like 2016.

Defending champs at the draw ceremony on Friday.

Defending champs at the draw ceremony on Friday.

Projected quarter-finals (by seed)

Top half: Angelique Kerber [1] v Svetlana Kuznetsova [8], Garbine Muguruza [4] v Dominika Cibulkova [6]
Bottom half: Elina Svitolina [5] v Simona Halep [3], Karolina Pliskova [2] v Johanna Konta [7]

First rounds to watch

Garbina Muguruza (ESP) [4] v Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

A battle between a current and former French Open champion. The retiring Schiavone will be far from an easy opener for Muguruza.

Angelique Kerber (GER) [1] v Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)

An all-lefty showdown between the world No1 and a former top-10 player. We’re sounding off the upset alert just in case.

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [31] v Monica Puig (PUR)

An intriguing match up between a former US Open runner-up and the reigning Olympic champion.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [8] v Christina McHale (USA)

This is going to be a grind. Set aside three hours of your day for this one.

Madison Keys (USA) [12] v Ash Barty (AUS)

An exciting one between two of the most likeable players on tour. Barty is coming off a strong week in Strasbourg while Keys is still searching for her top form since her long injury absence earlier this season.

Simona Halep (ROU) [3] v Jana Cepelova (SVK)

Remember when Cepelova made the Charleston final beating Serena Williams en route? Well that was three years ago. More recently, she made the Istanbul semis on clay. Not the easiest of first rounds for an injured Halep.

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