World number six and 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep gets her tournament underway with a first round meeting against Japanese youngster Nao Hibino. Halep and Hibino have never met, and with the young Hibino playing in only her second ever Grand Slam main draw match, the Romanian should make light work of the world number 70.
Halep's inconsistent first half of 2016
Halep struggled through much of the early part of 2016, dealing with an Achilles injury and a nose issue. The Romanian fell in the opening round in Melbourne to Shuai Zhang, before struggling through Dubai and Doha. In Indian Wells and Miami, Halep seemed to find her form again, making quarterfinal runs in both WTA Premier Mandatory events.
Going into the clay court season, many did not know what to make of the Romanian. The 2014 finalist began her clay court season in Stuttgart, falling early before going to one of her best tournaments, Madrid. In Madrid, Halep harnessed the high Romanian crowd support to vault herself to a first Madrid title, also taking her first title of 2016 to turn her season around. Last week in Rome, the sixth seed fell early again to young Australian Daria Gavrilova.
Halep's past French Open results
After first round exits her first four appearances at Roland Garros, Halep finally won a round in the French capital in 2014, before going on a tear, defeating Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Andrea Petkovic on the way to the final.
In the final, the Romanian faced 2012 champion Maria Sharapova, whom she had lost to four weeks earlier in the title match in Madrid. In one of the best matches of the year, Halep and Sharapova grinded on the Terre Battue for hours, with the Russian eventually coming out on top 6-4 in the third set. Though she lost, Halep made big waves towards becoming a consistent top ten player the past three years. Last year, the Romanian fell in the second roubig-hittingitting Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
With Halep possessing the experience needed to go deep at Roland Garros, the Romanian already has an upper hand on her far less experienced opponent. Hibino has played very little on clay this year, compared to her Romanian opponent who claimed the biggest clay court lead-up title just a few weeks ago. Expect Halep to use her big ground strokes and brilliant blend of offense and defense to create a Parisian, clay court masterpiece and to move through to the second round with ease.
Prediction: Halep in straight sets