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French Open 2018 women's contenders latest form: How are the leading WTA stars performing ahead of Roland Garros?

Live Tennis Staff in WTA Tour 23 May 2018
  • Latest form surrounding the leading WTA stars ahead of the French Open
  • Who will win in a wide-open Roland Garros field?
Simona Halep (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

Another typically wide-open women’s Grand Slam field awaits at the 2018 French Open - read on below as we pick apart the form of the top 10 favourites!

1. Simona Halep

Best French Open Result - Runner-up: 2014 (lost to Sharapova), 2017 (lost to Ostapenko)

2017 French Open Result - Runner-up (lost to Ostapenko)

Simona Halep (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Best 2018 Result so far -
Shenzhen champion (beat Siniakova), Australian Open runner-up (lost to Wozniacki), Rome runner-up (lost to Svitolina) 

Halep has endured her fair share of heartbreak when it comes to Grand Slams - none more so than at the French Open, where she’s lost two three-set finals against Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko, the most recent of which last year when the Romanian blew a 6-4 3-0 lead against a first-time major finalist. Halep didn’t let the disappointment bother her though, claiming the No. 1 ranking for the first time at the end of 2017 and reclaiming it again this season after briefly relinquishing top spot to Caroline Wozniacki after the Australian Open. Clay is Halep’s best surface and the French Open is her best chance to win a major - and she’s favourite to snap her drought in Paris this year, although the World No. 1 didn't have the most ideal start to her clay swing, suffering a 6-4 6-1 loss to CoCo Vandeweghe in the quarter-finals of Stuttgart, while she also lost at the same stage of Madrid, where as the two-time defending champion she went out to an on-fire Karolina Pliskova.

Rome's Internazionali BNL d'Italia may have left us with more questions than answers when it comes to Halep. Benefiting from a lucky walkover from Madison Keys, Halep was brilliant against Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals and battled past Maria Sharapova in a gruelling semifinal thriller - only to offer extremely minimal resistance to Elina Svitolina in an 0-6, 4-6 defeat. Halep's inability to produce meaningful resistance to Svitolina or anything like her best tennis in a final yet again clouds the Romanian's chances coming into Roland Garros - even if she did enough to in Rome to secure the top seeding in Paris.

2. Serena Williams

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2002, 2013, 2015

2017 French Open Result - Didn’t play

Best 2018 Result so far - Indian Wells third round (lost to Venus)

Serena has only played two competitive tournaments since winning the Australian Open title in 2017, but that hasn’t stopped her from being the second favourite with the bookies for the 2018 French Open. Attempting to break the record for the most Grand Slam titles won before retiring, Serena - who gave birth to her first child in September last year - played her first singles match in 14 months at Indian Wells earlier in 2018, losing to sister Venus in straight sets, while she was knocked out in the first round of Miami. It’s clear Serena still has a way to go, and her participation at the French Open is now under extreme doubt after she pulled out of Rome earlier this week. 

After attending the royal wedding, Williams has at least been spotting practicing at Roland Garros, although her form remains a total unknown.

3. Garbine Muguruza

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2016 (beat Serena Williams)

2017 French Open result - Round of 16 (lost to Mladenovic)

Garbine Muguruza (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Best 2018 Result so far -
Monterrey champion (beat Babos)

Muguruza famously broke through for her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2016, taking out Serena Williams in straight sets in the final as she emphatically announced herself as a star of the present, as well as the future. Muguruza has been a streaky player since then, going long periods without making an impact, but she can turn it on at any given time - like Wimbledon last year, when she beat Venus Williams to win her second major. The Spaniard is easily one of the most dangerous players on tour, and if she’s playing her best in Paris, Muguruza is arguably THE player to beat. Muguruza also didn't have a great start to the clay season, retiring in her first match in Stuttgart against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while she once again failed to make it far in Madrid, falling to Daria Kasatkina in the Round of 16.

Rome, which is usually the stage for Muguruza to revive ahead of the French Open, saw the 2016-17 semifinalist crash out of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia early, squandering match points in a 7-5, 2-6, 6-7(6) defeat to Daria Gavrilova. The Spanish player looks vulnerable on forehand and in the forecourt, and there's a definite sense that all her opponents know it. Muguruza generally does raise her level significantly for Roland Garros, but she's left herself an even tougher task than usual to do that with so few wins coming in. 

4. Elina Svitolina

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final 2015 (lost to Ivanovic), 2017 (lost to Halep)

2017 French Open Result - Quarter-final (lost to Halep)

Best 2018 Result so far - Brisbane champion (beat Sasnovich), Dubai champion (beat Kasatkina), Rome champion (beat Halep)

Svitolina came into the 2017 French Open as arguably the hottest player on tour, having previously captured the title in Rome. She sailed into the quarter-finals and found herself 6-3 5-1 up over Simona Halep. But the Ukrainian would suffer a dramatic collapse, blowing that lead and a match point as Halep came back to take the second set in a tiebreak before dropping a bagel on Svitolina in the decider. Svitolina didn’t go away after that match though, hitting a career-high of No. 3 later in 2017, while she’s already picked up two Premier titles in 2018 - although she has never made it past the quarter-finals of a major. Svitolina drifted slightly after Stuttgart after going down in three sets in the quarter-finals to Caroline Garcia, and she didn't make an impact in Madrid either, losing to Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.

That all changed in Rome, however, as Svitolina rose to the challenge of defending her title at the Foro Italico and barely put a foot wrong on her way to doing just that. With the exception of a set dropped to Daria Kasatkina, Svitolina was fit, focused and cool-headed in victories over Angelique Kerber, Anett Kontaveit (a potential dark horse for the French Open title) and, most significantly, Simona Halep, extending her winning streak against the Romanian to three matches and allowing the world no. 1 just four games in the final. Although her vulnerability to bigger hitters remains  a problem, Svitolina continues to improve the attacking dimensions of her game and she moves on clay as well as anybody in the French Open draw. Could this be the two-time quarterfinalist's year at Roland Garros?

5. Jelena Ostapenko

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2017

2017 French Open Result - Champion (beat Halep)

Jelena Ostapenko  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Best 2018 Result so far -
Miami Open runner-up (lost to Stephens)

In one of the biggest shocks in Grand Slam history, a 20-year-old Ostapenko stunned Simona Halep in the 2017 French Open final, coming back from 4-6 0-3 down to fire 54 winners past the Romanian to win her first Grand Slam title in stunning circumstances. The Latvian became the first unseeded player to claim the Roland Garros crown since 1933, and Ostapenko has continued to establish herself as a top 10 player since, qualifying for the WTA Finals Singapore at the end of 2017 and making the Premier Mandatory Miami Open final in March. No doubt Ostapenko will feel the pressure of defending a slam for the first time, but if she can weather the storm through the early rounds, we know (and more importantly, she knows) she has the game to beat anyone. Ostapenko was solid in her first outing on European clay, making the Stuttgart quarter-finals before losing a tight three-setter to eventual champion Karolina Pliskova, but she couldn't build on that form in her next tournament, bombing out of the Madrid opening round to Irina-Camelia Begu.

Ostapenko displayed some brilliant shotmaking in Rome and narrowly fell short to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, but her serve continues to look like the most serious vulnerability of her game. Unfortunately there's no way to really tell what we can expect from Ostapenko as she attempts to defend her Roland Garros title.

6. Maria Sharapova

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2012, 2014

2017 French Open Result - Didn’t play

Maria Sharapova (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Best 2018 Result so far -
Shenzhen semifinals (lost to Siniakova), Rome semifinals (lost to Halep)

Ever since returning from a 15-month doping back in April last year, Sharapova has struggled to consistently hit the sort of form that saw her win two French Opens and five major titles before her suspension. A series of injury problems have also sent Sharapova onto the sidelines at various times over the last 12 months, most recently at the Miami Open, where she was forced to withdraw with a forearm injury. Sharapova can still beat the best players in the world on her day, but winning seven matches on clay in such a competitive field is a big ask for the Russian at the moment. 

Losing a fourth match in a row when she lost to Caroline Garcia in the first round in Stuttgart, Sharapova got her first wins since the Australian Open when she recorded a solid quarterfinal finish in Madrid, eventually losing to Kiki Bertens in three tight sets. The Russian continued to impress in Rome where she is a three-time champion, winning three-set battles with Ashleigh Barty and Dominika Cibulkova and scoring a first top-10 win since last year's US Open against Jelena Ostapenko to reach the semifinals. Her run was stopped as fatigue got the better of her after taking the first set from Simona Halep, but despite ongoing issues with her serve, Sharapova looked more like her old self in Rome than she has done since before her suspension.

Guaranteed a seeding now at the French Open after her feats in Rome, Sharapova should be expected to do some real damage in the draw and might even be considered a legitimate contender for the title. 

7. Daria Kasatkina

Best French Open Result - Third round 2016 (lost to Bertens), 2017 (lost to Halep)

2017 French Open Result - Third round (lost to Halep)

Best 2018 Result so far - Dubai runner-up (lost to Svitolina), Indian Wells runner-up (lost to Osaka)

Kasatkina has surged into the leading contenders for the French Open courtesy of a spectacular last six months or so on tour, where she’s beaten all four current Grand Slam champions and made big finals in Dubai and Indian Wells. The Russian, who’s still just 20 years of age, won her first career title on the green clay of Charleston last year and has added another layer of aggression to her game in 2018 - not too dissimilar to what Svitolina did last year. Kasatkina will have to drastically improve on her results at the majors to go deep at the French Open though - she’s yet to make it past the R16 and has only gone beyond the third round once. The youngster also crashed out early in Stuttgart and Prague, losing in the first round to Magdalena Rybarikova and Jasmine Paolini respectively, but Kasatkina was much better in Madrid, taking out Sorana Cirstea and Garbine Muguruza before a heavy loss to Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals. Unfortunately for the Russian, she lost her way after bageling eventual champion Elina Svitolina in Rome and bowed out before the quarterfinals.

8. Karolina Pliskova

Best French Open Result - Semi-finals: 2017 (lost to Halep)

2017 French Open Result - Semi-finals (lost to Halep)

Karolina Pliskova (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Best 2018 Result so far -
Stuttgart champion (beat Vandeweghe)

It was a very average start to the season from former World No. 1 Pliskova, but last year's French Open semi-finalist has been rapidly improving on clay over the last two years, and with eight of the world's top 10 players competing in Stuttgart to launch their clay campaigns, it was the Czech who was the last woman standing. Pliskova took out reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko before ending the dream run of CoCo Vandeweghe in the final to secure her first title of 2018. The 26-year-old has continued her spectacular form into Madrid, conquering the likes of Sloane Stephens and World No. 1 Simona Halep on her way to the semi-finals, but she couldn't make it past in-form compatriot Petra Kvitova, falling in straight sets. 

Pliskova was one set away from the French Open final last year, claimed the first big title of the clay-court season and was a real factor at the second big event - the Czech's early defeat in Rome, where she lost both the match and her temper against Maria Sakkari after a dodgy call, shouldn't fool anyone into discounting her as a genuine threat to win the French Open.

9. Angelique Kerber

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2012 (lost to Errani)

2017 French Open Result - First round (lost to Makarova)

Best 2018 Result so far - Sydney champion (beat Barty)

Clay has never been Kerber’s best surface - and that’s illustrated through the German’s past results at Roland Garros. The former World No. 1 has only made the quarter-finals once in 10 previous visits, while she’s lost in the first round in her last two appearances. Kerber has however found a resurgence in form over the first quarter of 2018, swiftly regaining her spot inside the top 10 after a number of consistent performances, including winning Sydney and making the Australian Open semi-finals. Kerber should be able to win some matches in Paris this time, but she’s probably not near the very top of the list when it comes to title contenders. Kerber avenged a Fed Cup loss to Petra Kvitova in the opening round of Stuttgart, but she was forced to retire in her next match while trailing Anett Kontaveit by a set and subsequently pulled out of Madrid.

The German returned in Rome where she played well to reach the quarterfinals and her injury seems well behind her, but as her straight-sets defeat to Svitolina in Rome shows, there are a lot of players she's simply second-best to on this surface.

10. Caroline Wozniacki

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2010 (lost to Schiavone), 2017 (lost to Ostapenko)

2017 French Open Result - Quarter-final (lost to Ostapenko)

Best 2018 Result so far - Australian Open champion (beat Halep)

After enjoying a dream January in which she won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and regained the No. 1 ranking for the first time in six years, Wozniacki’s level has dipped quite a bit, with the Dane winning just two matches at Indian Wells and Miami combined. Wozniacki also doesn’t have the greatest record at Roland Garros, reaching just two quarter-finals in 10 appearances, while before last year, she hadn’t been past the second round since 2012. Will need to raise her level in the lead-in events to be counted among the leading contenders for the title. Wozniacki was another of the top 10 favourites who had to retire in her first clay tournament of 2018, pulling the pin while at a set apiece with eventual Istanbul champion Pauline Parmentier in the quarter-finals, while she couldn't conjure up much form in Madrid, losing in the Round of 16 to Kiki Bertens.

Wozniacki got a couple of decent wins in Rome over Alison van Uytvanck and Anastasija Sevastova, but was blown off the court by Anett Kontaveit and, much like Kerber, doesn't tend to produce her best tennis on clay, so it's difficult to envision the Dane being too much of a force at the French Open.

11. Petra Kvitova

Best French Open result - Semifinal, 2012 (lost to Sharapova)

2017 French Open result - R2 (lost to Bethanie Mattek-Sands)

Petra Kvitova  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Best 2018 result so far
 - St Petersburg champion (beat Kristina Mladenovic), Doha champion (beat Garbine Muguruza), Prague champion (beat Mihaela Buzarnescu). Madrid champion (beat Kiki Bertens)

Who would have thought 12 months ago, when two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova took the court at Roland Garros to play her first matches since sustaining career-threatening knife injuries to her left hand, that a year later we would be talking about the Czech as a possible contender for the title?

Kvitova herself tends to respond to questions about whether or not she can win the French Open with an eyeroll or a wry smile, so intensely is her game associated with fast surfaces like the grass of Wimbledon. But not only has she won four titles so far already in 2018 and climbed back into the top 10, two of them have come on clay. Kvitova is 13-1 on red clay in 2018, having beaten Angelique Kerber and Julia Goerges in Fed Cup and then, after an early loss to Kerber in Stuttgart, build an 11-match winning streak that saw her claim an emotional title on home soil at the Prague Open, then follow up the very next week with an unprecedented third Mutua Madrid Open title. 

Kvitova beat Daria Kasatkina and Karolina Pliskova on the way to the Madrid final, where she triumphed over Bertens in three pulsating sets, and some of the tennis she played was so formidable as to absolutely establish her credentials as a potential champion at Roland Garros - even if the clay and conditions there are nowhere near as fast as Madrid. That said, Kvitova pulled out of Rome with understandable fatigue and hasn't made it as far as the quarterfinals in Paris since her solitary semifinal appearance there in 2012. But never count out the Czech.

12. Kiki Bertens

Best French Open result - Semifinal, 2016 (lost to Serena Williams)

2017 French Open result - R2 (lost to Catherine Bellis)

Kiki Bertens  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Best 2018 result so far
 - Charleston champion (beat Julia Goerges)

Genuine surface specialists are a rare thing in modern tennis but Kiki Bertens is developing into perhaps the WTA's finest clay-court specialist. The Dutch player has had her health problems over the years and has also hugely struggled for consistency on any surface, but at 26, Bertens has just played the finest clay-court season of her career and has really put herself forward as a name to be considered when it comes to Roland Garros.

A semifinalist at the French Open in 2016 when she beat Angelique Kerber in the very first round and went on to beat Madison Keys, Daria Kasatkina and Timea Bacsinszky before losing to Serena Williams, Bertens picked up the fifth and biggest title of her career on clay this April when she won the Volvo Car Open in Charleston on green clay, beating Julia Goerges in the final. Despite an early defeat in Stuttgart, Bertens went on to make the biggest final of her career at the Mutua Madrid Open, stopping Maria Sharapova's run in three sets and handling Caroline Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia with ease before narrowly losing to Petra Kvitova.

An early loser in Rome to Maria Sakkari, Bertens has made her clay schedule a lot heavier by opting to play the Nurnberger Versicherungscup the week before Roland Garros - although it should be noted that playing (and winning) Nurnberg didn't stop her from making the semifinals in 2016, or from going out in the second round last year. Ultimately Bertens has simply played too high a level of clay-court tennis this year to be excluded from any discussion of potential French Open contenders, even if she falls into the category of somewhat-dark horse rather than favourite.

13. Anett Kontaveit

Best French Open result - R2, 2017 (lost to Garbine Muguruza)

2017 French Open result - see above

Anett Kontaveit (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Best 2018 result so far
- semifinalist (Stuttgart, Rome)

Speaking of dark horses ...

22-year-old Estonian Anett Kontaveit is a name to remember after another very impressive clay-court season. Kontaveit broke into the top 50 after making quarterfinals in Stuttgart and Rome last year and pushing defending champion Garbine Muguruza to a third set in the second round of the French Open, and went on to win her first WTA title in 's-Hertogenbosch. She started 2018 by making the fourth round of the Australian Open, beating Jelena Ostapenko, and after a barren stretch came to life again in the clay-court season where she surpassed the mark set last year.

Kontaveit comes into Roland Garros with a 9-4 record on clay in 2018, having made the semifinals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix - where she beat Kristina Mladenovic, Angelique Kerber (via retirement) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before losing to Karolina Pliskova - in Stuttgart before beating Venus Williams on her way to the third round in Madrid, where only Petra Kvitova could stop her. Kontaveit went on to beat Venus Williams again in Rome, making the semifinals there with wins over Coco Vandeweghe, former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki.

That's an impressive list of scalps for the Estonian, whose power game from the baseline especially off the backhand side is simply dazzling on clay, and it's notable that every big clay tournament she played this season, she has only been stopped by the eventual champion - Pliskova in Stuttgart, Kvitova in Madrid and Elina Svitolina in Rome. Expecting her to win the title is quite a stretch, but as Ostapenko reminded us last year, anything and everything is possible when a player has enough power and audacity. The 25th seed is certainly not a player any title hopeful will want to see in her path.

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French Open 2018 women's contenders latest form: How are the leading WTA stars performing ahead of Roland Garros?

Another typically wide-open women’s Grand Slam field awaits at the 2018 French Open - read on below as we pick apart the form of the top 10 favourites!

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