The second major of 2019 begins this Sunday, as the focus of the tennis world turns to the red clay of Roland Garros for the French Open. In this article, we analyse the chances of the leading candidates in the women’s singles.
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The Romanian is the reigning champion and is considered as the favourite as a result although, in a wide open women’s draw, a successful defence looks far from guaranteed. In fact the form book shows that the world number three is actually having a fairly average season, combining a number of disappointing early exits with several losing finals.
Her run to the final of the Madrid Open earlier this month, where she lost to Kiki Bertens on clay, may have renewed her confidence sufficiently to push on and regain her title, however her other results do not inspire a lot of confidence.
In honesty you can probably take Halep’s status as favourite as an indication of the uncertainty and unpredictability of the women’s tour rather than a true reflection on the likelihood of the Romanian claiming the trophy for a second time.
Dutch clay-court specialist Bertens is regarded as second favourite for the event, somewhat surprisingly given that she is yet to progress beyond the quarter-final stage of her last 11 majors.
However, she did reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2016 and will surely come into the tournament full of confidence, off the back of winning the Madrid Open with a straight sets victory over Halep.
As a result of that win, she achieved her career-high ranking of number four in the world. If Bertens can successfully navigate the opening rounds without too much trouble, she could be a contender.
Czech-leftie Kvitova is another who will be heavily fancied but has also suffered a highly inconsistent year so far.
After reaching the final in Australia in January, the only real highlight has been a title in Stuttgart. Additionally, she hasn’t got a fantastic at Roland Garros and her best effort was a semi-final way back in 2012.
There are also whispers that she may pull out of the tournament altogether at the last minute owing to injury, in which case the absence of such a big name would open up the draw even further.
Yet another player struggling for consistency, does at least boast decent and recent French Open form having lost in last year’s final.
The American can be unplayable on her day but a tendency to lose focus and composure has led her to lose many sets, and matches, that she shouldn’t have frankly.
If she can regain some of last year’s form and navigate the opening rounds confidently, she could gain momentum and play herself into contention. However, Stephens is not coming in with the highest confidence levels and a lot will depend on the difficulty of draw she faces.
Currently ranked seventh in the world, she will need to go close to her deep run from last year or risk slipping down the rankings significantly.
One outsider who definitely merits consideration is Karolina Pliskova.
The Czech comes into the event off the back of a straight sets victory over Johanna Konta in the Italian Open final last Sunday. Any argument that she might be tired as a result is dismantled when presented with the fact that Simona Halep reached the final of both events in 2017 and 2018.
Pliskova’s win should give her enormous confidence which will be backed up by her reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open in January and the same stage of this tournament in 2017.
Considering that she isn’t ranked as one of the direct candidates to claim the title, I think she is very worthy of consideration.
Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Elina Svitolina