A look at the women’s favorites and dark horses at Roland Garros

Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep pose at the trophy ceremony after the final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome/WTA Tennis

With a wide open women’s field marked more by who’s not in Paris rather than who is, this year’s French Open looks even more confusing and intriguing in terms of who will lift the Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen in two weeks time. All missing from Paris for varying reasons and with 30 combined Grand Slam singles titles between them are Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka. Their absences make this year’s festivities at Roland Garros anyone’s game.

As oddsmakers’ favorite and world No. 4 Simona Halep said, “about 15 players” are legitimate contenders to triumph at the second major of the season. So with more depth and parity present in the women’s game than ever before, who are the favorites and dark horses here on the terre battue of Paris?

One obvious name who comes to mind as the leading contender for this year’s French Open is 2014 finalist and back-to-back Madrid champion Simona Halep. Halep, the odds-on favorite and third seed in Paris, is 14-2 on the clay this season and with a title in Madrid and a runner-up finish to 2017 points leader Elina Svitolina last week in Rome, the Romanian is looking good as the leading contender to take home the title this upcoming fortnight.

Well…she was looking good. Despite her impressive clay-court resume and improved level and mindset on the dirt this season, question marks still surround Halep going into the second major of the season. An ankle injury sustained in the final in Rome last week left her with a partially torn ligament, making her status 50-50 (according to a recent post she made on Instagram). The former Roland Garros finalist has been practicing for the past two days but with limited movement.

Simona Halep hits a forehand at the 2014 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/AFP

Svitolina also appears to be a serious title contender. A quarterfinalist in Paris two years ago, the Ukrainian has been arguably the most in-form player so far this season. And having won the junior title at Roland Garros back in 2010, Svitolina must be confident in her ability to compete for the women’s trophy this time around.

But can she get over the hump at the top-tier events? Svitolina has a disconcerting tendency to underwhelm on the big stage, and she did not advance to the second week in Melbourne, Indian Wells, or Miami earlier this season.

Elina Svitolina hits a forehand at the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Another name squarely in the conversation at Roland Garros is 2009 champion and world No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian, who has enjoyed a solid clay-court campaign with a semifinal performance in Madrid and round of 16 appearances in Stuttgart and Rome, is a veteran of the tour and one who plays incredibly well on the clay (back-to-back quarterfinals at the French Open 2013 and 2014).

Svetlana Kuznetsova reacts after winning a match at the 2014 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Getty Images

Finally, not to be overlooked is defending champion and recent Rome semifinalist Garbiñe Muguruza. The Spaniard has had a tough go of it since claiming her first Grand Slam title on Court Philippe Chatrier, enduring an up-and-down last 11 months–from first-week exits at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year to semifinal showings in Brisbane and Rome so far this season. One concern for Muguruza, who has made the second week in Paris three straight years, could be the injury bug. She has already retired four times in 2017 and was forced to stop mid-match against Svitolina in the Rome semifinals last week (neck).

If Muguruza can ride the success and confidence from Rome and remain healthy, she may be able to maintain her consistent string of second-week performances at Roland Garros–and perhaps even successfully defend the title.

Garbine Muguruza celebrates by kissing a trophy at the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Getty Images/Julian Finney

As for a dark horse, home hope Kristina Mladenovic is one to watch. The Frenchwoman, who reached back-to-back finals earlier this month in Stuttgart and Madrid, has been one of the hottest players on tour in 2017. She also captured the St. Petersburg title in February and advanced to semifinals in Indian Wells and Acapulco.

With France having not boasted a home-grown champion at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000, the pressure and attention on Mladenovic will be massive. But if the No. 7 in the race to Singapore can feed off the boisterous French crowd and refuse to buckle under the weight of expectations, she could be a very strong second-week pick in Paris.

Kristina Mladenovic hits a serve at the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Getty Images/Martin Bureau

Thomas contributes to multiple tennis outlets, including The Grandstand and Cross Court TV. You can follow him on Twitter for daily tennis coverage of both the ATP and WTA at @Thomas_cluck917.

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About Thomas Cluck 10 Articles
Thomas Cluck is an avid tennis fan who loves to share his passion for the sport through writing. Thomas is from Dallas, TX, and is an aspiring tennis agent and PR person. Thomas has been watching tennis for many years and covers the sport daily on his Instagram page @atpwta_tennis.
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21 Comments on A look at the women’s favorites and dark horses at Roland Garros

    • Hey Alison,

      Maybe by Wimbledon I will have my new laptop but I’m also a bit too tied up with commitments.
      I’ll be picking a Wta bracket on the tennis draw challenge as usual tho. The other problem is I have no way of watching WTA matches, since Tennis Channel stopped covering WTA. I really miss it!

      Is RZ willing to do a WTA one? Or Kimberly?

    • Thanks and to too…hope you are doing well.

      I have another favor to ask: could you post a link to RZ’s draws? I’m at work but I can fill them out layer, thanks alison♡

    • Also I made the TC Bracket so that each email address can submit 3 different brackets. Good luck!

    • Thanks to Ricky for posting that article by Thomas Cluck. Nice breakdown of the current state of women’s tennis and possible contenders for the title.

      I have no clue at all with the women. It’s ashame that Halep is injured again. I might have gone with her.

      I don’t know about Mugu. She’s been slumping and also has had some injuries. I can’t say if she is ready to defend her title.

      Mladenovic might be the one this time. That would make the French happy.

      I just have not clue with the women and without being able to see any women’s tennis that makes it even harder.

    • rc!..Thank u thank u thank u for setting the Bracket up..but..what’s the difference between TourneyTopia and TennisChallenge?…If we’re already enter TennisChallenge then we have to enter TourneyTopia once again?

      • No, you don’t have to do Tournytopia!

        It’s the one RZ does for Tennis-x ATP and I do for WTA. It’s one of the original bracket games tennis-xer’s did. There’s a message box to exchange messages. Tournytopia only is open for Grand Slams in tennis.

        The tennis challenge is for all tournaments all season long…ATP and WTA. hahaha, yes, I am crazy! 🙂
        But I don’t sweat it at all over the WTA these days because I have hardly any idea of who is doing well.

        • I picked a Kuznetsova bracket, a Kiki Mlad one, and a Kuznetsova one for tourneytopia. All my picks are the same except for the SF and Finals, basically.

          • no not 2 Kuznetsova…one is Kerber winning, I think. That’s the tournytopia WTA brackets. I only have one tournytopia ATP bracket.

            ATP was easy to fill out. Rafa vs Beefy Boy final.

  1. The mentioned Muguruza, Kuznetsova and Mladenovic are expected to be (at least in quarter-f), anything less would be a failure…
    Dark horses?
    Julia Goerges and Lucie Safarova
    Who will win most likely? Halep or Stosur…

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