No defending champion in Paris but who will win at Roland Garros?

If a US Open draw with many top players was open then a Roland Garros with a few more names but some significant ones missing could be even more open but who is a genuine contender?

We have seen a lot of tennis over the last few weeks and some will arrive in Paris hoping to spring a surprise, some will have expectations on them and some living up to the pressure might be too much…

To start with defending champion Ash Barty will not be there due to travel concerns, Naomi Osaka who won the US Open is out due to injury as is Bianca Andreescu who hasn’t been since this year and we are not expecting to see all players until 2021.

Karolina Pliskova

Part of them problem is we don’t know what were going to get from Karolina. I like her, I think she is a very honest person but he game goes through the gears but then lacks bite.

Karolina impressed me in Rome but in Paris and early exit wouldn’t be a surprise. There are some doubts right now having retired in the Rome final for the first time in her career and it will be a fitness test to next week. 

During her career Pliskova has three top ten ranked wins on clay courts one was her first ever top ten win in 2014 against Kerber and interestingly enough the other two were in Madrid in 2018.

These two wins were significant in 2018 when Pliskova made the semi-finals the Mutua Madrid Open beating Sloane Stephens and then Simona Halep en-route to the final four and it was Stephens and Halep who contested the Roland Garros final that year with the latter winning.

Serena Williams

It isn’t that often I would rule Serena out of winning a Grand Slam title but not having that warm-up on clay could be a big problem.

Serena didn’t play Rome due to an Achilles injury but was back out practicing on the clay at Patrick’s academy on Monday so it is a question of how fit and ready is she?

This will be different for everyone though, the conditions will be a bit cooler and windier and the roof on Chatrier and bigger tennis ball will make a difference and it is who will cope with it.

When I’m looking at players who I think would be more of a favourite than Serena I am looking at Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza.

Simona Halep

This was always the plan for Halep, she wanted matches but wasn’t sure about going to New York.

Won the title in Palermo and then had a break before Rome and does look in good form having won three consecutive titles now and finally adding Rome to her trophy cabinet. A big positive for Simona is to have Darren Cahill back in the team as well for these few weeks in Europe.

There just seemed to be something about Halep in Palermo and her attitude in Rome, she seems very relaxed a bit like Azarenka to an extent and is happy figuring it out on the court. 

One of the most incredible runs to a Grand Slam title was this of Halep’s in 2018 in Paris and I wouldn’t rule out another big win in the French capital at all!

Victoria Azarenka

Why not? No one has played better collectively since the restart than Vika.

It’s been amazing to see this great person and champion shine at the highest level again. Vika has answered questions and made people listen to her tennis once again which is fantastic for women’s tennis.

Playing Vika right now is dangerous, she seems to be on top of her baseline game and the confidence oozing from her game has been like watching Vika from 2012 and 2013. 

Elina Svitolina

With Svitolina I don’t see it. Leaving Rome without a top 35 ranked win this year in the small calendar we have had is not good for the Ukranian who is 0-5 against players ranked in the top 35.

Usually soo good in Rome but Vondrousova who made the semi-finals in Paris last year was too good for Ellie who not for the first time this season was taken apart a bit too easily.

Svitolina does produce good tennis on a clay court but its that business end and her record against the other names in this piece who are contenders just doesn’t add up.

Garbine Muguruza

Another player with previous major experience finding their best tennis in 2020. Garbine made the final in Melbourne and showed that same intensity down in Rome. 

Muguruza is a former Roland Garros so she knows what it takes in Paris, I think this year more than any other the last couple of years have been her most impressive.

Can Garbine go an win her second Roland Garros title? I don’t see why not, I think the dip and rise in intensity could be a problem and was extremely rollercoaster like against Halep in the semi-final of Rome. There was a left thigh issue for the Spaniard which will be something to watch out for but definitely a more confident and more dangerous player these days.

Marketa Vondrousova

It was the clay court season last year when the Czech really burst onto the scene. I liked Marketa’s game, she is quite calm and strong behind her forehand and once she gets that drop shot into play it is near impossible to read.

We have seen her take apart some top players on the clay and of course was a finalist in Paris last year losing to Barty in the final.

Could she win it? I don’t see why not, thinking of all these names mentioned above they would want to avoid Marketa in the draw.

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