2017 French Open Preview – Simona Halep Leads Wide-open Field

The 2017 French Open is under way, at least for the qualifying draws. The real deal won’t start until Sunday, but with all the important women’s events leading up to the French Open over with, now is as good a time as any to conjecture on who is going to do what at Roland Garros this season on the women’s side of things. In this article, I’ll be using betting odds as a reference point for examining the women’s favorites while deviating from them when I see a player that’s over-rated or under-rated.

There are two regular tour events running this week, one in Nuremberg and one is Strasbourg. It is generally a mistake to play the week before a major if you have ambitions of going deep in the upcoming Grand Slam. For that reason, it’s not surprising that few contenders are in either of the two events.

However, Kiki Bertens, Laura Siegemund, and Eugenie Bouchard were/are in the Nuremberg draw. Bertens and Siegemund, both of which could entertain notions of doing well in Paris, are both still alive in the tournament. Bouchard, however, pulled out injured and her French Open hopes have likewise diminished.

Meanwhile Strasbourg still features both Carla Suarez Navarro and Sam Stosur in its draw, two players that will meet in the tournament’s quarterfinal round. The news from this event is that Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed, withdrew injured. She had some injury problems earlier this clay-court season and appears to be a non-threat heading into Paris – if she plays.

The tournament favorites for the French Open, according to bet365, are as follows:

(1) Simona Halep 33 to 10
(2) Elina Svitolina 7 to 1
(3) Garbine Muguruza 10 to 1
(4) Svetlana Kuznetsova 14 to 1
(5, 6, and 7) Kristina Mladenovic, Angelique Kerber, and Karolina Pliskova all 16 to 1
(8) Four players at 28 to 1 (Wozniacki, Siegemund, Johanna Konta, and Daria Kasatkina)

It’s certainly not every Grand Slam where the tournament betting favorite is someone who has never won a major before. However, the best women’s players that have active careers at this point are generally not going to be in the tournament. Serena Williams is on maternity leave, Maria Sharapova didn’t get a wild card for political reasons, and Victoria Azarenka is on mat leave as well. Right there that’s the three best players of this time frame out of the draw. Throw in the fact that Petra Kvitova can’t be expected to do that well given her hand injury and we’re looking at the most diluted French Open draw in years.

I don’t remember a time off-hand when the pre-tournament Grand Slam betting favorite was a Grand Slam goose-egger. Halep is carrying an ankle injury right now, but she certainly remains one of the favorites to win the French Open. Clearly, at this stage of her career she should have all the experience she needs to break through and claim her maiden title – if she’s good enough.

Elina Svitolina is the 2nd favorite and she’s certainly more than intriguing as well. She had a minor injury a little while back, but everything accounted for no one has tallied more ranking points than Svitolina in the 2017 season so far. The 22-year-old won Istanbul not long ago, she fell early in Madrid, but then made her case in the Rome draw where she survived a path to the title that included Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, and Halep. The win over Halep is certainly a statement result, and some could argue that it makes Svitolina the outright favorite for the Roland Garros title. The French Open is the only Grand Slam venue where she has enjoyed any kind of success, and she seems poised for a breakout major.

Third-favorite Garbine Muguruza is impossible to talk about all that seriously for very long. She pulled out of the Rome semifinals injured (neck), but if it hasn’t been one thing, it’s been another with the Spaniard for a year now. An upcoming loss at the French Open, where she’s the defending champion, would likely take her well out of the top ten on tour and it’s been a long time coming.

The fourth favorite is Svetlana Kuznetsova, one of only three former champions that will actually be in the draw (the others are Muguruza and Francesca Schiavone). The Russian’s form is flirty, and I felt confident in her a couple of weeks ago.

Kristina Mladenovic, Angelique Kerber, and Karolina Pliskova are in the next tier of contenders. Mladenovic has certainly come on strong, but there’s just one title this season, and that was on the hard-court surface. She did win the doubles event last year at Roland Garros, so she certainly knows a thing about playing on clay. Kerber is probably a worse pick to win the French Open than Muguruza. The German, as the World No. 1, will have the top seed but she can’t be expected to do much with it. Meanwhile, Pliskova looks like she’ll be caught on the wrong surface as her big serve should help her out more on grass and again at the US Open later this season.

For true favorites, I would go with Svetlana Kuznetsova still. She has more upstairs than anyone else in the favorites mentioned above. For 2nd favorite, I’d go with Svitolina while demoting Halep to third favorite. Then it’s Mladenovic followed by a whole whack of players that you can’t have any confidence in. If you twisted my arm for a 5th favorite, I’d go with Dominika Cibulkova.

Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams, and Madison Keys are expected in the draw as well. The term ‘dark horse’ doesn’t really apply to this upcoming tournament, however. The potential-champions list really does go about 25 players deep. I see a whole bunch of coin tosses coming up in this tournament, starting in the early rounds.

There’s no Serena, no ‘pova, and no Vika while Kvitova is only just getting back to the swing of things. Honestly, if 36-year old Martina Hingis had come out retirement two months ago, she’d have a good chance of making the quarters. That doesn’t say much about the depth of the talent, but the top-three talents of this time period are out pre-tournament.