Halep’s First Grand Slam Title: 2018 Roland Garros Women’s Singles Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The clay season concludes with the second grand slam of the year. The French Open has arrived with Jelena Ostapenko looking to defend her crown whilst six players fight for the world number one. Will we see another shock winner, or will one of the elite step up to take the crown? Did I mention Serena returns? There is plenty to look at in our draw preview for Roland Garros.
The French Open has been the kindest grand slam to Simona Halep, but it has also been the cruellest. Twice a finalist, twice a runner-up, the Romanian will be hoping to go one further this year. Alison Riske is first up, but the first major challenge will come against Kristina Mladenovic in round three. The Frenchwoman is always dangerous in front of a supporting crowd, and she made the quarter final last year herself. Projected for the round of 16 is rising Belgian Elise Mertens who is fats becoming a staple in the top 20. The 16th seed has some tough matches in front of her, including a third round match against the tricky Daria Gavrilova should things go by the seedings. The Aussie has some tough names herself to get through such as Sorana Cirstea then the winner of Bernarda Pera and Elena Vesnina.
Caroline Garcia is one of the six player show can become worlds number one this tournament, and after a consistent clay court season she has is positioned to potentially go very deep at her home grand slam. The Frenchwoman struggled under the pressure here, but last year’s quarter final showing may have been a turning point. Garcia’s path is rather easy until the fourth round where she could face the in-form Kiki Bertens or Angelique Kerber. They are set to meet in the third round in what could be a good match between two of the tour’s best defenders. Garcia has had her struggles with both recently, but will the home crowd give her an edge should she meet one of them here?
A Halep vs Garcia quarter final on Phillipe Chatrier could be fireworks and I think we may head in that direction. The Frenchwoman has turned a corner in her home grand slam, but is it enough to go really deep? Halep may be the best claycourter in the world on her day and she may prove to be too tough of a hurdle for Garcia to pass.
Prediction: Halep def. Garcia
For Garbine Muguruza, the French Open brings back some fond memories. She announced herself on tour by thrashing Serena Williams here, then went on to beat her again in the final a few years later to claim her first grand slam crown. Her quest for a second Roland Garros title starts with a rough match against another former champion in Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has not played much this year but she is still a difficult match to start with. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the first seed the Spaniard could come across with big serving Coco Vandeweghe projected for round four. The American struggles on clay though, so she could be ousted in the first round by Laura Siegemund. This is a really open section of the draw and one where an unseeded player such as Kuznetsova or a returning Bencic could make some waves.
The second half of this quarter is where the major interest lies. Karolina Pliskova is the seed, but she is not the story as Maria Sharapova and a returning Serena (who ironically plays Kristyna Pliskova first) have also landed in this part of the draw. The sixth seed will likely meet Sharapova in the third round as both have a relatively light draw until that point. Julia Goerges is the projected fourth round for the winner, but the German has a tough opener against Dominika Cibulkova and a possible meeting with Serena in round three. Pliskova will need all her new-found clay court prowess to get through this draw.
And I believe she might. Sharapova has shown signs of improvement but she is still not the player she was, and we can not expect much out of Serena after a long layoff. Pliskova made the semi finals here last year, so we know she is capable at Roland Garros. The question is, who awaits in the quarter finals? A lot depends on which Muguruza turns up, and whilst that could decide the quarter, I am picking the safer option of Pliskova here.
Prediction: Pliskova def. Muguruza
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Elina Svitolina’s 2017 campaign ended in a heartbreaking way for the Ukrainian, so she will look to put that right when she aims not only to win Roland Garros but become number one in the world. As one of the steadiest players in the draw, Svitolina is a good bet as one of the contenders, but she has struggled for that grand slam breakthrough. The Ukrainian has a good draw to the quarter finals though with not many dangerous clay courters standing in her way. Madison Keys is projected for round four, but she will likely not even make it that far, which could leave the door open for Naomi Osaka to make the last 16. Svitolina is a huge favourite to get out of this section however, and it will be a huge shock if she loses before the quarter finals.
Awaiting the Ukrainian could be the defending champion Ostapenko. The Latvian shocked the world with her performance here last year, and she will be looking for a repeat when she defends her title. She has a much tougher round ahead than Svitolina as Victoria Azarenka could await in round two then Barbora Strycova projected for round three. With Johanna Konta’s and Venus Williams’ struggles on clay, we could get an unseeded player such as Petra Martic and Qiang Wang in the round of 16.
It will be very difficult for Ostapenko to defend her French Open title with this draw, and even if she does make the last eight, she will have to battle to get there. Svitolina has a relatively simple draw to navigate and I expect the Ukrainian to make it out of this quarter.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Ostapenko
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Caroline Wozniacki finally broke her Grand Slam duck in Melbourne, so for the first time ever the Dane enters a major as a grand slam champion. Clay ahs never been Wozniacki’s best surface though, even with her defensive orientated style of play. The world number two has a potentially tough round one against Collins with former finalist Timea Bacsinszky possibly awaiting Wozniacki in round two. The Dane could face a hostile crowd in round three as she is projected to meet Alize Cornet there, but she has former finalist Sara Errani then Pauline Parmentier in her two matches prior to a possible Wozniacki meeting. Round four could get very interesting with promising Russian Daria Kasatkina seeded to meet her in the round of 16. Kasatkina has the dangerous Kaia Kanepi in round one though with Kirsten Flipkens possibly awaiting in round two. Carla Suarez Navarro is the round of 32 projected opponent, but she has a tough draw too with Ana Konjuh and Maria Sakkari in her section.
Petra Kvitova has found some big form this season and even won the title in Madrid in the build-up to this tournament. The Czech’s draw looks pretty good with an out of form Anett Kontaveit projected for round three and not too many dangerous unseeded players lurking. Sloane Stephens has also landed in this section, but her form on the clay has not been brilliant. Anastasija Sevastova could await the American in the third round.
There could be some upsets in this section with a few of the seeds not being at their best on the clay. Wozniacki may be the biggest casualty as I could see her losing out to Kasatkina in round four, but I think Kvitova will not suffer that same fate and will make it to the semi finals.
Prediction: Kvitova def. Kasatkina
Halep def. Pliskova
Kvitova def. Svitolina
Final: Halep def. Kvitova
It is a hard one to call as nobody stands out above the rest in this draw, but I am going with Halep to break her duck. Third time could possibly be a charm for her when it comes to French Open finals.