2017 Roland Garros Women’s Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennnis Atlantic
The second Grand Slam of the year has arrived and wow, it is as open as ever. Who will run out as Champion of Roland Garros? Let’s break down the draw and find out.
World number one Angelique Kerber has been anything but in number one form. The German has struggled to put together a run of results. Can she turn it around for the French Open? She has a tough opener against fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian always brings her best to the big events and will no doubt be a huge test for the German. If Kerber can pass that match, then she should be good to make the quarter finals. Roberta Vinci is the first projected seeded opponent, but she could have a lot of issues with Monica Puig in round one. Petra Kvitova is back as the 15th seed, and it is great to see her making her return to tour. It will be unfair to expect much though, as the in-form Sam Stosur should make it to the fourth round to face Kerber.
With Kerber’s struggles, there could be a chance for Svetlana Kuznetsova to make the semi finals again. The Russian is a former champion here but has a tough draw ahead. Christina McHale is first up, then possibly France’s Oceane Dodin, who will no doubt have the support of the home fans. Shuai Zhang is the first seeded opponent for Kuznetsova.
Clay has never been Caroline Wozniacki’s favourite surface, but the Dane will be hoping to find the form that got her to the world number one position years ago. The section is a fairly good one for the Dane, at least until the second round where she could face the in-form Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman impressed in Nurnberg again and is a former semi finalist here. It will not be a shock to see Bertens do well at Roland Garros again and set up a fourth round match with Kuznetsova.
The defending champion is Garbine Muguruza, and once again we do not know which version will show up. Despite struggling for most of the season last year, the Spaniard played close to her best at this tournament in 2016, and as a result went all the way. Can she repeat that success? It is a tough opener against Francesca Schiavone, then the winner of Monica Niculesu vs Ana Kontaveit will also be a test of where Muguruza is at with her game. Yulia Putintseva is the first seeded opponent.
French hopes will be heavy on Kristina Mladenovic’s shoulders. The 13th seed has been in good form this season, but will the pressure of a home crowd get to her? If we are going by game alone then Mladenovic should be safe to make the fourth round with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni being the toughest opponent in the third round. A Mladenovic vs Muguruza fourth round will be fireworks, and it looks like it will happen.
Dominika Cibulkova has not had a great clay court season, but often players can catch fire at the right time. Will the Slovak pick up her form for the French Open? She has a tough match against Lara Arruabarrena in the first round in a possible upset. That could open the door for Timea Bacsinszky to have another good run at Roland Garros.
Venus Williams has never won the French Open, but with the draw so wide open, the former world number one could make a decent run. She has a tough opener against Qiang Wang, then Daria Gavrilova as a potential third round opponent. The Aussie has been in good form recently. Can she translate it to the grand slam stage? I think she might, and it will be an unexpected fourth round against Bacsinszky that could be her reward.
A few weeks a go I would have labelled Simona Halep as the favourite to go all the way and win the title, but an ankle injury has put her participation in doubt. If the Romanian can fight through the pain then she should make the third round at least to face Daria Kasatkina. Elena Vesnina is the projected fourth round opponent for Halep, but the Russian could have a struggle against Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round. I think the Spaniard may get through that one and possibly go on to face Halep in the fourth round, depending on how bad her injury is. If the injury is serious then Kasatkina could make the fourth round for the first time.
Her Rome title win sets Elina Svitolina in good stead heading into Roland Garros. The Ukrainian is among the favourites in many peoples minds, but she has a very tough draw ahead of her. Svitolina opens against the streaky Yaroslava Shvedova, then she could potentially face another streaky player in Mona Barthel in the following round. Youngster Ana Konjuh is projected for round three, another tough match for the fifth seed.
Madison Keys has not played much this year due to injury, but she is always a dangerous opponent. Ashleigh Barty is a tough first round opponent, but things could get tougher in round three with Anastasija Sevastova waiting. The Latvian is possibly the favourite to go on to face Svitolina in the fourth round.
This quarter is arguably the most open of the lot with no former Grand Slam champions in the section. Karolina Pliskova is the second seed, but she has struggled on clay in the past. The Czech has a good draw to the fourth round with Lauren Davis being the toughest opponent on the road. From there it could get difficult though with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova projected for the round of 16. The Russian could have a tough match with Lucie Safarova, and the big serving Coco Vandeweghe is the first seeded opponent. Pliskova should be safe for the fourth round, but it is tough to predict who will join her there.
Johanna Konta’s section is arguably the softest of the draw on this surface. The Brit does not perform well on clay, so do not be surprised to see her exit early. It opens the door for France’s Caroline Garcia to make the second week if she can handle the home pressure. Agnieszka Radwanska would be the favourite to make it through this section, but her lack of form is worrying. Barbora Strycova could take advantage, but this is a wide open section, solook for an unlikely fourth round match to come out of it.
Round of 16:
Stosur def. Kerber
Kuznetsova def. Bertens
Muguruza def. Mladenovic
Bacsinszky def. Gavrilova
Halep def. Suarez Navarro
Svitolina def. Sevastova
Garcia def. Strycova
Pavlyuchenkova def. Pliskova
There are some tough matches to predict in there. Stosur’s form and clay court prowess may be too much for Kerber. Kuznetsova vs. Bertens is a tough call, but I am going with the Russian to edge it. Form says Mladenovic beats Muguruza, but the defending champion might step up to the plate again and the home crowd could put pressure on Mladenovic. Bacsinszky should have enough to beat Gavrilova, and Halep should make the quarter finals if her ankle is back. Svitolina’s good form should carry her past Sevastova. Garcia has a good draw to finally make a grand slam breakthrough, and Pavlyuchenkova will likely beat Pliskova on this surface.
Kuznetsova def. Stosur
Muguruza def. Bacsinszky
Svitolina def. Halep
Pavlyuchenkova def. Garcia
Kuznetsova vs. Stosur is a close match, but the Russian has often had the advantage on clay in their head to head matches. I think Muguruza might have played her way into form by this point to beat Bacsinszky. Halep’s injury makes it difficult to back her going too deep, so I think Svitolina is favourite for the semi finals. Home hopes will end here with Garcia unlikely being able to handle the pressure and Pavlyuchenkova beats her.
Muguruza def. Kuznetsova
Svitolina def. Pavlyuchenkova
If Muguruza makes it this far, she is playing well, so I see her overcoming Kuznetsova in the semi finals. Svitolina should be too solid for Pavlyuchenkova in the other semi final.
Muguruza def. Svitolina
This will be a first Grand Slam final for Svitolina and a third for Muguruza. Experience in this situation will play a factor and I think the Spaniard will defend her title. If she is on form, then it is difficult seeing Muguruza being stopped. That said, she could easily bomb out in the first round and destroy a lot of brackets.