The singles draws for the 2018 French Open are out. As has been the case with the last several Grand Slams, the women’s side is wide open. A case could easily be made for 15 or more women to take the title. Here are a few of the more intriguing opening round matchups.
(11) Julia Görges vs. Dominika Cibulková
Görges has been one of the most consistent players in the world for the last eight months. She debuted in the top 10 earlier this year. Despite that, she has never made a really deep run at a major.
Cibulková is a significant hurdle to doing so here. The fiery Slovakian just missed being seeded and his reached the quarterfinals or better at all four majors. The slightest of edges goes to the seeded player, but the other result would not shock anyone.
(3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
It has been two years since Muguruza won it all in Paris and nine for Kuznetsova. The Russian’s year has yet to really get going as she comes back from wrist surgery, but she was a top 10 player at this time last year. The Spanish third seed has always been streaky and appears to be on a downturn at the moment.
Kuznetsova always seems to play well in Paris regardless of her form coming in. She reached the quarterfinals while unseeded in 2013. This is as tricky opener for a single-digit seed at a major as you will ever see.
Serena Williams vs. Kristýna Plíšková
Before the world gets giddy about unseeded new mom Serena Williams clashing with seeds, like a potential matchup with Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, this matchup cannot be overlooked.
Plíšková is far less accomplished than her twin sister Karolína Plíšková. However, she is starting to put together a nice little career of her own. She played five clay-court events leading into Roland Garros and won more than one match in all but one of them. Big serving lefties are a tough matchup for any player on any surface. That is exactly what Plíšková is.
Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam champion for a reason. It would be foolish to completely write her off at this event. Still, this is her least successful major tournament, she has not played since March, she has only won two matches on the year, and she starts out against a talented player who is capable of matching her in the power department.
If you go by name recognition, it is easy to think this match is a snoozer. If you look at the players these two are at this exact moment, this match is a coin flip.
(29) Kristina Mladenovic vs. Andrea Petkovic
Mladenovic reached the last eight on home soil last year. She is very demonstrative on the court, and the French crowd eats it up every year. Until very recently, Mladenovic had fallen off the map after last year’s result. This included a 15-match losing streak that ended just after the Australian Open, but she seems to have stabilized things in the last handful of weeks.
Petkovic is a veteran whose best days are probably behind her. Still, the former French Open semifinalist is very comfortable on clay and still capable of pulling off a big win from time to time. Mladenovic needs to be on high alert for this one.
World No. 1 and top seed Simona Halep is 0-3 in major finals in her career, including two close losses at this venue. She had a decent lead up to Roland Garros. Defeating Maria Sharapova in the Rome semis was huge for the Romanian. She is often overpowered by big hitters like Sharapova. It was just her second career win over the long-limbed Russian.
There really is not anyone in Halep’s early path that should trouble her, but that has been said before at a major and proven inaccurate. Halep’s quarterfinal opponent could be 18th seed Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman has quietly become one of the best clay-court players in the world, but the Madrid finalist may have peaked too early. She has been sent packing early the last two weeks.
Finding a semifinal opponent for Halep is difficult. It is hard not to gravitate towards the group of 16 that has Williams, 28th seed Sharapova and (6) Karolína Plíšková.
As mentioned above, Williams will have her hands full with the other Plíšková in the first round. Sharapova and the sixth seed are slated for a blockbuster third-round matchup. Both have been consistent factors this clay-court season, but Sharapova moves a touch better on this surface and has a point to prove returning to an event she has won twice after her drug violation.
The good news for Halep is whoever her semifinal opponent is, they will have to empty the tank to get there.
Semifinal prediction: Halep d. Sharapova
Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki leads this half, but this is not the Dane’s favorite time of year. She has not won a title on clay in seven years. Venus Williams is another high seed in this half that is not expected to do much here. The 2002 French Open finalist has won just one match on clay this year.
Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko has done more than enough to prove last year’s stunning breakthrough was no fluke, but defending a major title for the first time is very difficult.
Unseeded Yulia Putintseva is a former quarterfinalist in Paris and has a balanced game that translates well to clay. However, this half sets up really well for Rome champion (4) Elina Svitolina and semifinalist (25) Anett Kontaveit.
The other name to watch is two-time Wimbledon winner (8) Petra Kvitova. The Czech lefty has won four titles this year, including two on clay. She has been without question the best player on tour this year, but is playing her first full season since being stabbed in a home invasion.
The grind is bound to catch up with her at some point, possibly against Kontaveit in the third round. Someone is going to win their first major and it is hard to ignore the way Svitolina whipped Halep in the Rome final.
Semifinal prediction: Svitolina d. Kontaveit
Championship match: Svitolina d. Halep
The 2018 French Open begins Sunday at 5:00 am on Tennis Channel. The NBC family of networks will also have coverage throughout the event. Be sure to follow me on Twitter below to see my complete picks for both singles draws.
Featured image from wtatennis.com
“From Our Haus to Yours”