32 players are in the draw to compete for the title in Strasbourg, France. A good run here would be a perfect practice for Paris with the French Open just around the corner. This year the event sees the return of the last three champions in Samantha Stosur (2015), Alizé Cornet (2014) and Monica Puig (2014). They are joined by top seeds Sara Errani, who took a wildcard, and Sloane Stephens, who already has three WTA titles under her belt this year.
Top seed Errani spearheads the draw after picking up a wildcard and will go up against Puig in the first round. It might be a tough one for the Dubai champion, who has not been on a good run of form lately which includes a first round exit in Rome. They are joined by seventh seed Elena Vesnina and one of the many Frenchwomen in the draw in Caroline Garcia. Vesnina will be one of the last few to join in the action as she is due to contest in the Rome doubles finals and this could pose her some trouble.
The packed quarter also includes Heather Watson and Kateryna Bondarenko. With all players hailing from the top 100 and three players already holding titles from this year, this looks to be the toughest quarter and it could be anyone to make the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Puig d. Watson
Last year’s champion and third seed Stosur heads the second quarter along with fifth seed Monica Niculescu. Stosur has had a fantastic start to the clay season, having reached the finals in Prague and making the semifinals in Madrid. She would be the favorite to make it out of this quarter.
Niculescu who made an explosive start on clay, threatening Petra Kvitova in Stuttgart with her unorthodox play, then somewhat fizzled out losing in the first round in Madrid. If she could get it going on clay, she could pose a problem to Stosur, though it must be noted the Romanian has not won against her on seven previous occasions.
The quarter also sees Kirsten Flipkens, Su-Wei Hsieh and Kurumi Nara in the mix. Three qualifiers also make up the remaining of the quarter.
Prediction: Stosur d. Niculescu
This quarter boasts the most French players, with two of them being part of the French squad in the Fed Cup in Kristina Mladenovic and Cornet. Last year’s finalist Mladenovic who is a wildcard entrant, this time, has only won one match on clay this season excluding the Fed Cup triumph. She faces Madison Brengle, for whom clay has not been a strong surface, and would be itching to get a win to go to Paris with a good run.
Ninth seed Cornet herself is not enjoying much success after an injury layoff but has played well in Strasbourg, having won once and been a finalist another year as well. They are joined by fellow Frenchwoman and qualifier Alizé Lim, who has made a WTA main draw for the first time this year.
Camila Giorgi, who was to be in this quarter has withdrawn with a lower back injury, has been replaced by Shelby Rogers. Others in this quarter include Alison Riske and Zarina Diyas. Riske, who had a strong start to the year reaching the finals in Shenzhen, then faltered along the way, is not known for her clay performance.
Prediction: Mladenovic d. Cornet
The last quarter has second seed Stephens leading the pack as the second seed alongside Timea Babos, who is seeded eighth. The American is the joint leader in the number of titles won this year with three but has not enjoyed much success on the red dirt this season. However, last year’s finalist would still be one of the favorites to come out of this quarter.
Babos is having a decent start to the year but is still finding her way on clay. The quarter also sees the likes of Zhang Shuai back in WTA action and wildcard entrant Pauline Parmentier.
Zhang, after her heroics at the Australian Open, did decent in the hard court tournaments before competing back in ITF Pro Circuit events. She would want to get a good result here heading into Paris. Parmentier is on good form having made two quarterfinals on clay, albeit one being on the ITF. Others in this quarter include Croats Donna Vekic and qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Prediction: Stephens d. Babos
Semifinal prediction: Stosur d. Puig, Stephens d. Mladenovic
Even though there are five French players in the tournament, it looks like it will be an outsider yet again to lift the title seeing as the French players are not in the best of form. Stosur could make another deep run and reach the finals again. Or it could perhaps see someone win their first ever WTA title.
If it goes down to either Stephens or Stosur, the Australian does have a winning record with one of the victories being at the same venue last year in the semifinal stage. She could go on and do it yet again and see her lift her first title of 2016. Stephens, though, has been an impressive 3-0 in finals this year so one would expect a close matchup.
Final: Stosur d. Stephens