An Early Look at a Murky French Open Ladies Field
As a Grand Slam in tennis gets closer, a clearer picture of the favorites to lift the big trophy is supposed to emerge. However, the exact opposite is occurring on the women’s tour with the French Open fast approaching.
With Serena Williams out due to pregnancy, there is a case to be made for 15-20 players to capture glory in Paris. It seems like every realistic contender has some sort of major red flag attached to them. Here is a look at four of those contenders.
Why She Has a Shot: Any five-time Grand Slam winner is a threat in any tournament she enters. Her well-documented mental toughness also cannot be overlooked. Grade champions do not forget how to win, and Sharapova has done that twice at Roland Garros.
Red Flag: This is the most glaring red flag possible. The 30-year-old Russian may not be given the chance to play. After falling victim to the rebirth of Eugenie Bouchard in Madrid earlier this week, Sharapova’s ranking guarantees that she will necessitate a wildcard to play.
Understandably, there is more than a little doubt as to whether a player returning from a doping suspension will/should receive such a luxury. There is also speculation that Sharapova may get a qualifying wildcard. This would bring her total number of matches needed to win the tournament from seven to ten.
Sharapova will learn her fate later this month. If she gets to a point where a return to Grand Slam glory is within touching distance, it would be hard to bet against her.
Even so, getting to such a point is a massive task. The fact that Sharapova has been installed as a the betting favorite despite eligibility concerns and playing just six matches in 15 months tells you all you need to know about how wide open things really are at the moment.
Why She Has a Shot: The defending champion has all the shots and firepower to beat anyone on any given day.
Red Flag: There is nothing about the Spaniard’s current form that would suggest she is ready for a successful title defense. Since her breakthrough in Paris last year, she has failed to even reach a final. For her sake, let’s hope that an opening-round loss after winning just four games on home soil this week was rock bottom.
The pressure of expectations has eaten Muguruza alive for the past year. The only silver lining is that she was in similar form before coming from seemingly nowhere to win the title last year.
Why She Has a Shot: Any current World No. 1 and title holder of a Grand Slam has to be included in any conversation when it comes to a big event. Her defensive skills make her a difficult out for any opponent.
Red Flag: She is the World No. 1 in name only at the moment. As her 17-10 record suggests, 2017 has been a disappointment for the German. The root of her issues is similar to that of Muguruza. Throw in a dislike for the clay court surface and an injury scare that popped up in Madrid, and Kerber has a tall order ahead.
Why She Has a Shot: The 2014 Roland Garros runner-up is one of the very few big names playing well right now. After struggling with injuries early in the year, the Romanian reached the semifinals in Stuttgart and is the highest seed remaining in Madrid.
Red Flag: Prior to the last couple weeks, Halep was in total disarray as she piled up bad losses and withdrawals at the start of the year. The sudden uptick in form is not long-lasting enough for me to be a 100-percent believer yet, but in a year where no one is separating themselves, she certainly belongs in the conversation.
With the French Open starting on May 28 and just one more full significant warm-up event remaining in Rome next week, your best bet when it comes to picking a ladies winner may be throwing Scrabble tiles up against the wall.
Right now, I am leaning towards Halep, but of course a lot depends on the draw. Even veterans like Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur are worth keeping tabs on.
It is cliché when it comes to sporting events, but true in regards to this year’s ladies French Open. Anything can happen.
Featured Image by thestar.com
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