After an open clay court season, the top WTA players are ready to kick off the women’s singles event at the 2019 French Open, with 128 women vying to claim the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on June 8th.
Whilst seeing who will take the title will be interesting in itself, there are several other notable storylines to follow. Simona Halep, the third seed this year, will be looking to become the first woman since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2016 to defend a Grand Slam title, whilst world number one and top seed Naomi Osaka is looking to become the first women since Williams in 2015 to win three Grand Slam tournaments in a row.
Meanwhile, Osaka is under a lot of pressure to stay at world number one, with Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber, and Petra Kvitova all in contention to be ranked first following the tournament. Wins here for Pliskova or Bertens would be their first Grand Slam titles, whilst a win for Kerber would see her become only the seventh woman in the Open Era to claim the Career Grand Slam. A win for Kvitova would be her first slam since Wimbledon in 2014, and her first since returning from a knife attack in December 2016, whilst Serena Williams will be aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles as she hopes to win her first major since becoming a mother.
With several more compelling storylines featuring throughout the draw, it will be interesting to see who does what when action begins this Sunday.
Projected Q/F: (1st) Naomi Osaka vs (8th) Ashleigh Barty
Clay has not been Osaka’s best surface in the past, and though she has displayed some encouraging form on the surface this year, injuries saw her withdraw from both Stuttgart and Rome. The world number one does not have an easy draw either, with the winner of an enticing first round encounter between Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko waiting in round two, whilst in-form 29th seed Maria Sakkari is her projected third round opponent. Madison Keys also lurks in this mini-section; the 14th seed won in Charleston at the beginning of the clay court season, and usually performs well at Slams, beating Osaka on her way to the semifinal last season.
Barty herself does not necessarily have an easy mini-section, notably due to the presence of 10th seed Serena Williams. The American does not have a tricky start, though there are injury doubts surrounding her ahead of the tournament, and a third round against 22nd seed Bianca Andreescu or Sonya Kenin could prove tough. Meanwhile, Barty could face Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins in the second round, and the ever-tricky 25th seed Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round, though the much-improved Australian is more than capable of surviving these tests.
Prediction: Keys def Barty
Projected Q/F: (3rd) Simona Halep vs (6th) Petra Kvitova
Halep has not had the ideal clay court build up to Roland Garros, though similar results did not affect her last year as she claimed her maiden Grand Slam title. The Romanian has not reached the last eight of a slam since Paris 12 months ago, but has been handed a good draw, with 27th seed Lesia Tsurenko and 16th seed Qiang Wang her projected third and fourth round opponents. The other seed present here, 21st seed Daria Kasatkina, has not been at her best this year, and all signs seem to suggest that the defending champion should reach the last eight safely.
However, Kvitova does not have too difficult a draw either. The Czech, who is currently leading the WTA Race to Shenzhen, starts against Sorana Cirstea, and should be able to get past a third round encounter against Barbora Strycova or 30th seed Mihaela Buzarnescu. Furthermore, Kvitova’s projected fourth round opponent, 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka, has struggled for form after a stellar end to 2018 and faces a tough opener against Dominika Cibulkova, though one big danger could be 17th seed Anett Kontaveit; Kvitova beat the Estonian in the Stuttgart final earlier this year, but Kontaveit beat the sixth seed at this tournament last year.
Prediction: Kvitova def Halep
Projected Q/F: (7th) Sloane Stephens vs (4th) Kiki Bertens
Stephens heads into Roland Garros having reached the final last year, though has not shown her best tennis in 2019 so far. However, the American did reach the last four on clay in Madrid, and should be safe through her first two round, though a third round clash against 32nd seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich could prove tricky. Furthermore, clay court specialist Elina Svitolina, seeded ninth, is also present here, though has struggled with injury this season and faces Venus Williams in one of the pick of the first round ties. Meanwhile, 19th seed and former champion Garbine Muguruza also sits here; the Spaniard has struggled throughout the last season or so, though was a semifinalist here in 2018 and always seems to do better as an underdog.
Meanwhile, Bertens heads into the tournament in the form of her life, though has to deal with the growing expectation around her, especially considering many people are picking for the title. The Dutchwoman has not always brought her best tennis to the slam tournaments, and could face 26th seed Johanna Konta in the third round; Konta beat Bertens in Rome, and played the best clay court tennis of her career heading into the tournament. If Bertens comes through to the second week, she could face another test in 15th seed Belinda Bencic, who like Konta is nearing her best tennis once again, though 23rd seed Donna Vekic could also prove a tricky opponent for anyone in this mini-section of the draw.
Prediction: Bertens def Muguruza
Projected Q/F: (5th) Angelique Kerber vs (2nd) Karolina Pliskova
Kerber heads into Paris looking to make history, and become one of just a small handful of players to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments, though this has never been her strongest major, and her form so far in 2019 has not been exceptional. The German could face the vastly improved Marketa Vondrousova in round two, whilst 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro or Dayana Yastremska could provide a tricky third round encounter as well. Meanwhile, 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova herself has never excelled here, and could come up against 20th seed Elise Mertens in round three; the Belgian reached the fourth round here last year, and one the biggest title of her career in Doha a few months ago.
Pliskova, meanwhile, has had a very solid start to the season, capped off by her run to the one of the biggest titles of her career on the clay in Rome less than a week ago. The Czech’s first real test will likely come in the third round against 31st seed Petra Martic, who won her maiden WTA Tour title in Istanbul, though Pliskova will be favoured to reach the second week through this. 13th seed Caroline Wozniacki also sits here, though has retired in both Rome and Madrid following a run to the final in Charleston, and could face strong clay courter and 18th seed Julia Goerges in round three.
Prediction: Pliskova def Mertens
Kvitova def Keys
Bertens def Pliskova
Kvitova def Bertens