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French Open 2020: Women’s singles draw analysis, preview and predictions

hannahwilks in French Open 02 Oct 2020
Simona Halep (Photo by Christian Liewig/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Proven Roland Garros champions Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza are the favourites but does the draw support their French Open chances?

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina lead the draw at the 2020 French Open.

French Open 2020: Preview

With players enclosed in a bio-security bubble, only 1,000 spectators allowed per day and the tournament rescheduled from sunny June to chilly, damp October, the 2020 French Open will be unlike any other edition of the Grand Slam in its history.

Naomi Osaka triumphed at the US Open under its own unusual conditions, but Osaka, along with defending champion Ashleigh Barty, is one of the absentees from the French Open. Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu are also not playing.

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of contenders for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Former winners Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Serena Williams are all among the favourites to regain the trophy. On the other hand, the French Open has seen six first-time major winners on the women’s side in the past decade. Could there be a seventh in 2020?

French Open Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Simona Halep (1) vs Kiki Bertens (5)
Tournament favourite Halep comes in on glittering form, having won her last 14 matches – ten of them on clay as she captured the Prague Open and Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome – and with a 28-9 record at Roland Garros, having made the quarterfinals or better for the past three years.

But the draw immediately threw up some potential obstacles for Halep. Jil Teichmann, the rising Swiss player, was helpfully taken out by Irina-Camelia Begu, against whom Halep is 7-0. More concerningly, Amanda Anisimova, who blasted Halep off the court in straight sets in last year’s quarterfinals, was her projected third-round opponent.

In the end, Halep rose to the occasion in tremendous style. Nineteen-year-old Anisimova has looked a bit lost this season, but the top seed gave her no opportunity to find her feet, trouncing her 6-0, 6-1.

Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up, was projected to await in the round of 16 and had beaten Halep in both their previous meetings, but the Czech was an early casualty of talented young Pole Iga Swiatek in the first round. Swiatek went on to beat Su-Wei Hsieh and Eugenie Bouchard, the former top-10 player and French Open semifinalist, in the draw as a wildcard. Halep and Swiatek will meet in the last 16, a rematch of last year’s encounter at the same stage which Halep won 6-1, 6-0.

The 2019 semifinalist Johanna Konta went out to Coco Gauff in the first round, while fifth seed Kiki Bertens is not really a strong Grand Slam performer despite her clay-court prowess and retired in Strasbourg due to an Achilles injury. Full-body cramps saw the Dutch player wheelchaired off the court after a marathon battle against Sara Errani in the second round, but she returned rejuvenated two days later to record a very solid victory over Katerina Siniakova. Bertens now looks a much likelier quarterfinalist as she will face either Maria Sakkari or Martina Trevisan, who eliminated Coco Gauff.

Halep is playing too well at the moment not to pick her to come through to the semifinals, but Bertens is emerging as a potential threat: Their head-to-head is 3-3, with Bertens actually leading 2-1 on clay courts.

Predicted semifinalist: Halep (6/5 @ SkyBet to win her quarter)

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Elina Svitolina (5) vs Serena Williams (6)
Svitolina only returned to competition in Rome, where she made the quarterfinals, and won the Strasbourg title the week before Roland Garros. A two-time French Open quarterfinalist, and twice a Grand Slam semifinalist in 2019, Svitolina’s tennis hasn’t been too inspiring so far – she was patchy in being dragged to three by Renata Zarazua in the second round – but she was up to the challenge of beating Ekaterina Alexandrova, more formidable on hard courts than clay, in the third.

Svitolina has lost her last three matches against Caroline Garcia – will she be in trouble when they meet in the fourth round? Garcia ousted Australian Open quarterfinalist Anett Kontaveit in the first round and then tricky Aliaksandra Sasnovich to set up a third-round clash with Elise Mertens. Mertens came in on nice form, and crushed Garcia in the first set, but spurred on by an enthusiastic if small Philippe-Chatrier crowd, Garcia came back to win in three dramatic sets. Just about nobody picked Garcia to make the quarterfinals in Paris for a second time, but she now looks nicely poised to do so – and perhaps go even further.

The bottom half of this section was blown wide open on Wednesday by the withdrawal of Serena Williams due to a left Achilles injury and the defeat of Victoria Azarenka at the hands of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who also beat Venus Williams. Now qualifier Nadia Podoroska or Barbora Krejcikova, the unseeded Czech better known as a doubles player up until this point, will be in the quarterfinals awaiting Svitolina or Garcia.

Predicted semifinalist: Svitolina (8/5 @ 888Sport to win her quarter)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs Sofia Kenin (4)
Clay is not Sabalenka’s best surface and I don’t think these conditions will be a good match for her, but the powerful Belarusian has fought her way into the third round past Daria Kasatkina, a former quarterfinalist showing flickers of resurgence. Ons Jabeur should end Sabalenka’s run, with her unorthodox, crafty tennis.

Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion who made the Australian Open final in January, was a popular pick coming in, but her draw is unpleasant. Her opening opponent Tamara Zidansek is a good clay-courter, and ended up pushing Muguruza the distance – the Spaniard had to dig out a win from 0-3 down in the decider. Muguruza was able to keep things simpler in a straight-sets win over Kristyna Pliskova, but third-round opponent Danielle Collins can cause top players all sorts of problems even if clay isn’t her preferred surface.

Garbine Muguruza (Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Should Muguruza power her way through that lot, she’s likely got to contend with Jabeur and then perhaps Sofia Kenin in the quarterfinals. Kenin beat Muguruza at the Australian Open, she beat Serena Williams at this tournament last year; she lost her only warm-up match 0-6, 0-6 to Azarenka in Rome, but she got past Liudmilla Samsonova, who has been playing well, in R1 and she’s got a nice draw to play her way in. The other potential threat is Fiona Ferro, the Palermo Open champion, who has looked ominous over the summer and took out 14th seed Elena Rybakina. Ferro will face Istanbul champion Patricia Maria Tig with the winner likely to face Kenin.

Muguruza had injury concerns in Rome, but in six years she’s not failed to reach the last 16; she’s 0-2 vs Kenin, but they have never played on clay. Despite a tough draw the 2016 champion still looks like the player to beat in these damp conditions.

Predicted semifinalist: Muguruza (13/8 @ SkyBet to win her quarter)

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Petra Kvitova (7) vs Karolina Pliskova (2)
Second seed Pliskova is a former French Open semifinalist and played well in Rome to reach the final, only to be sidelined by injury and have to retire against Halep. Injury, however, had nothing to do with a straight-sets defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in the second round which has left Ostapenko looking very much like a force to be reckoned with in this tournament once more.

Champion in Paris in 2017 when she blasted her way to the title, Ostapenko showcased a much more well-rounded game in her upset of Pliskova and has avoided having to take on former finalist Sloane Stephens in the third, with the American going out to Paula Badosa.

Should Ostapenko beat Badosa, she will face Petra Martic or Laura Siegemund, both finesse players who can’t match Ostapenko’s power but could disrupt her game – that’s a tough ask for the Latvian to come through that match.

Petra Kvitova was a French Open semifinalist in 2012 but has made the second week just once since then. She hasn’t dropped a set in the first two rounds, and faces 18-year-old Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez, a fellow lefty, in the third round. Should Kvitova make it back to the round of 16 at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, she is likely to face the experienced Zhang Shuai. Zhang knocked out Madison Keys in the first round and then Alize Cornet, and faces wildcard Clara Burel – who knocked out the talented Kaja Juvan, who had ousted Angelique Kerber – in the last 32. Kvitova lost her only previous clay-court match against Zhang.

Semifinalist: Martic (9/2 @ Paddy Power to win her quarter)

French Open 2020: Prediction

Semifinals:

Halep d. Svitolina
Muguruza d. Martic

Final:

Halep d. Muguruza