French Open Women's Draw Analysis

French Open Women's Draw Analysis

Like the US Open women's field, the field here will be missing several Top 10 players, including last year's champion Ashleigh Barty, US Open champion Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic. That said, the six other Top 10 players – including 2018 champion Simona Halep – are here and ready to go for the second major event in a month's time.

Speaking of Halep, she's won titles at both clay-court tournaments she has entered post-pandemic in Palermo and Rome. Also considering that the No. 1 seed is a former champion in Paris, she's the main favorite to claim the title.

Halep has plenty of challengers in her half of the draw, including last year's finalist No. 15 seed Marketa Vondrousova, who she could meet as early as the fourth round. Another potential threat in the top half of the draw is No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens, who the Romanian could face in the quarterfinals. However, Bertens lost in her first match in Rome and retired in her first match in Strasbourg, so the Dutchwoman's form doesn't look like it's where it needs to be for a deep run.

As far as who could play Halep in the semifinals – it figures to be one of these three players: No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina, No. 6 seed Serena Williams or No. 10 seed Victoria Azarenka.

Svitolina has two quarterfinal showings in Roland Garros (2015, 2017) and she played well in Strasbourg heading into this major. However, the 26-year-old Ukrainian hasn't been at her best against the top players in 2020, so a deep run in Paris feels somewhat unlikely. 

Azarenka, the US Open runner-up, might be the favorite in her quarter of the draw. The veteran from Belarus is one of the hottest players in the women's game right now, and there's no real reason to think her form will suddenly drop off at the French Open. Azarenka reached the semifinals in Paris in 2013 and has two other quarterfinal efforts (2009, 2011).

Williams is dealing with an Achilles injury that kept her out of Rome, but if healthy, she certainly could challenge anyone in this half of the draw. The American will have turned 39 years old by the start of this major, and she hasn't won a major since the 2017 Australian Open. Williams hasn't advanced past the fourth round in Paris since she was the runner-up in 2016.

The bottom half of the draw is a bit tougher to predict than the top since it's without a clear standout favorite. No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova will be favored to reach her second-ever major final based on her ranking, but she also just had to retire due to injury in the Rome final. The veteran Czech rarely seems to be at her best at major events, but the draw is open enough here if her game is where it was in Rome. Pliskova reached the semifinals in Paris in 2017 but has otherwise never advanced past the third round.

No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin won't exactly be riding high on confidence in her part of the draw after she was humiliated 6-0, 6-0 by Azarenka in Rome. Kenin has the goods to reach the final in Paris, but she'll need to show some much better play than in Rome. The young American reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2019 and also fell in the fourth round of the 2020 US Open.

Other contenders in the bottom half of the draw are No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova, No. 8 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No. 11 seed Garbine Muguruza. Of those three players, Muguruza is probably the safest bet to make a deep run considering she won the title in 2016 and has reached at least the quarterfinals three other times.

The women's draw has a variety of interesting early round matchups, featuring rematches from the US Open, matchups between young players and more. Here are a few potentially mouth-watering early round contests:

Round 1 matches to watch

No. 15 seed Marketa Vondrousova vs. Iga Swiatek

This matchup will pit last year's finalist in Vondrousova against another youngster for their first-ever meeting. After her Roland Garros runner-up finish in 2019, the 21-year-old Czech has largely struggled, in part due to injury. She could either make another deep run due to her strong clay-court game or make an early exit to the 19-year-old Swiatek, who reached the fourth round of the French Open last year herself.

No. 9 seed Johanna Konta vs. Coco Gauff

Konta will get her first matchup with the 16-year-old American sensation to kick things off in Paris. The 29-year-old Brit reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2019, but she has oddly never advanced out of the first round any other season. Gauff, ranked No. 53, will be making her first appearance at Roland Garros and already has a number of upset wins early in her career. The young American has lost four of her last five matches, so an upset win here would still be a bit surprising.

No. 17 seed Anett Kontaveit vs. Caroline Garcia

Kontaveit holds a 2-1 head-to-head lead against the veteran Frenchwoman, but this is a tough opening round matchup for the 24-year-old Estonian. Kontaveit reached the fourth round at the French Open in 2018, while Garcia reached the quarterfinals in 2017 and fourth round in 2018. It would be a surprise if this match didn't go three sets.

No. 8 seed Aryna Sabalenka vs. Jessica Pegula

Sabalenka just lost to Pegula at the US Open in three sets in the fourth round, so she won't love the fact that she drew the American in the opening round in Paris. Neither player is at their best on clay, however, so this could be a bit of a sloppy affair despite its intriguing potential. Sabalenka has never advanced past the second round at Roland Garros, while Pegula hasn't even won a match at the event in one previous showing. 

Predictions

Quarterfinals: Halep d. Bertens, Azarenka d. Svitolina, Muguruza d. Kenin, Pliskova d. Kvitova

Semifinals: Halep d. Azarenka, Pliskova d. Muguruza

Final: Halep d. Pliskova

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zak Patterson
Zak joined RotoWire in 2016 covering NBA games. Now, he focuses on recapping and analyzing daily ATP and WTA tennis matches, and providing perspective on the state of the men's and women's game.
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