The leading lights in the women’s tennis circles head to Paris for the next fortnight for the French Open with a number of ladies eyeing up the chance to win the second Grand Slam title of the year and claim the riches that goes with it.
Youngster Iga Swiatek shocked the world to do exactly that last year and just seven months on the Polish ace returns to defend her title in what looks a wide open event once again despite the stacked quality in the field.
2020 – Iga Swiatek
2019 – Ash Barty
2018 – Simona Halep
2017 – Jelena Ostapenko
2016 – Garbine Muguruza
2015 – Serena Williams
2014 – Maria Sharapova
2013 – Serena Williams
2012 – Maria Sharapova
2011 – Li Na
There are 128 players in the draw which has been determined prior to the event beginning and the competition is a straight knockout over the best of five sets like the other Grand Slams. Where there is a difference in this one is that there is no tiebreak in the final set of matches. They have to be won by two clear games when the score reaches 6-6. The champion will be crowned on the second Saturday of the tournament.
Technically you could argue that Ash Barty returns here as one of the defending champions having won the title in 2019 and then not flown to Europe during the pandemic for the tournament last year. What can’t be argued is that she is the number one player in the world and the top seed this fortnight accordingly. She is therefore in the top quarter and is slated for a quarter final showdown with Elina Svitolina. The other six seeds in this section are Ekaterina Alxandrova, Karolina Muchova, Karolina Pliskova, Jennifer Brady, Coco Gauff and Ons Jabeur.
There are a few recognisable players in the quarter without a seeding. The obvious one of those is the former finalist Sloane Stephens. Everyone will be delighted to see Carla Suarez Navarro back on a tennis court after her cancer scare while there are also players such as Andrea Petkovic, Yulia Puntintseva, Qiang Wang, Su-Wei Hsieh, Anastasija Sevastova, Donna Vekic and Venus Williams who have all been seeded in these events in the past.
Sofia Kenin is the highest ranked player in the field in the second quarter but all eyes will be on the defending champion Iga Swiatek and were the two to meet in the quarter final that would be quite some contest. The other seeds bidding to stop that from happening are Anett Kontaveit, Petra Martic, former champion Garbine Muguruza, Elise Mertens, Maria Sakkari and the rising American star Jessica Pegula.
As with most of these quarters there are big names among the unseeded players in this section too. One of those is the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko who clashes with Kenin in the opening round of the tournament. Others include Camila Giorgi, Shelby Rogers and one of the home favourites Kiki Mladenovic. This is also one of the quarters which has British interest in it as Heather Watson takes her chances in this part of the draw.
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Aryna Sabalenka goes in search of her first Grand Slam title from the third quarter of the draw but as good as she has been this season, the attention is still likely to be on Serena Williams in this section as she once again looks to tie the modern era Slam record of Margaret Court. The other six seeds in this section are Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina and Angelique Kerber.
Once again there are plenty of unseeded dangers in this part of the draw. Mihaela Buzarnescu would be one of them while Danielle Collins has to be considered another. Elena Vesnina is making her way back to the circuit this year and she’s in the field while Svetlana Kuznetsova is a past master in Grand Slams. Ajla Tomljanovic and Ana Konjuh are a couple of other players who will fancy their chances of doing some damage in a wide open section.
The Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka will aim for three Grand Slam titles in a row from the bottom quarter. She has already made a huge impression on the tournament before it has begun when she declared she isn’t doing any media this week. Bianca Andreescu is the leading seed hoping to make sure she doesn’t have much to do. The other seeds in this section are Paula Badosa, Marketa Vondrousova, Kiki Bertens, Belinda Bencic, Johanna Konta and Veronika Kudermetova.
There are another bunch of unseeded players in the quarter who could go well and come through a few rounds. They include the former semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova, Madison Brengle, Daria Kasatkina, Nadia Podoroska, the home favourite Caroline Garcia, another home star in Alize Cornet, Kaia Kanepi and Ana Bogdan in a section that could easily open up with the two main seeds vulnerable on this surface.
Going into the tournament I told myself that the quarter I would target as far as an outright bet is concerned is the one which Naomi Osaka lasted up in and that is exactly what I am going to do. I’m a huge fan of Osaka and everything she stands for but her record on clay courts leaves plenty to be desired so she has to be taken on. As luck would have it the other main seed in the quarter, Bianca Andreescu, isn’t a great deal better suited to the red dirt either.
That should mean this quarter opens right up and does so pretty quickly. When you consider that seeds such as Belinda Bencic and Jo Konta have tough matches in former semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska and Strasbourg finalist Sorana Cirstea respectively, there might not be many seeds going deep in this quarter. One who might though is the Belgrade winner of a week or so ago in Paula Badosa. The Spaniard made the fourth round here in October when taking care of former Grand Slam winners Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko before Laura Siegemund got the better of her. This season on clay she has reached the semi-finals of Charleston where Bencic and Ash Barty were among her victims and also made the last four in Madrid where again she got the better of Bencic before going down to Barty. Badosa is going as well as anyone in the bottom half on clay this season and at 25/1 she looks worthy of each way support.
I’ll also take smaller plays on Ana Konjuh in the outright market and the third quarter which will look alarmingly wide open should the qualifier take care of Aryna Sabalenka in the first round. That isn’t without a chance of happening because Konjuh is a good clay court player, albeit she has been playing at a lower level in the main this year. She qualified for this event without losing a set which offers up hope and had only dropped one set on her way to the Belgrade final which she withdrew from during the match with our other outright selection Badosa. There aren’t many players aside from Sabalenka in outstanding form in her quarter so at 33/1 for that and 500/1 in a half devoid of the two main challengers in Barty and Swiatek, small punts could be the order of the day in a tournament which has thrown up a bunch of surprise semi-finalists and finalists over the last 3-4 years.
Back P.Badosa to win French Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Betfair (1/2 1-2)
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Back A.Konjuh to win French Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 501.00 with Boylesports (1/2 1-2)
Back A.Konjuh to win 3rd Quarter for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Boylesports
Back her here: