Roland Garros: Women’s draw preview

The second grand slam of the year is finally here, taking place over the next two weeks in Paris, and we have broken down the favourites in the women’s draw at Roland Garros.

The 115th edition of Roland Garros will be without crowd favourite and two-time Paris winner Maria Sharapova due to her drug ban, world number eight Belinda Bencic, who was ruled out with a back injury and Caroline Wozniacki, who sustained an ankle injury.

We take a look at the top seeds and see who they will be facing starting at the top.

Serena Williams

Just in case

The world number one and defending champion Serena Williams is the favourite to lift the title for the fourth time.

So far 2016 has been a rather poor season for Serena, who only won her first title of the year last week in Rome. Compared to 2015, when she won three grand slams and looked virtually unbeatable most of the time, Williams hasn’t quite been herself so far this year.

History will be against Serena winning in Paris again as wel, as the last person to win successfully defend her title was Justine Henin in 2007.

Serena is on track to face rival Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals, but will have to battle past Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round.

Agnieszka Radwanska

Just in case

World number two Radwanska is an unlikely contender as her Roland Garros record is poor. She only reached the quarter-finals once and crashed out in the first round last year.

In 2016, Radwanska won the Shenzhen Open and reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where she lost to Williams. She also reached the Qatar Open semi-final and then lost in another semi at the BNP Paribas Open, where Williams was once again her nemesis.

She reached the semi-final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix losing on clay to German qualifier Laura Siegemund.

In the first round in Paris, she faces Serbian Bojana Jovanovski and has a possible quarter-final match up against Romania’s sixth seed Simona Halep.

Angelique Kerber

Just in case

The German third seed is one of the few in the draw that has beaten Williams in a high-profile match, after she won her first grand slam title when she beat the American in the final of the 2016 Australian Open.

Since winning in Australia she suffered early losses at Doha, Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome, but retained her Stuttgart title and reached the semi-final in Charleston.

In Paris, Kerber reached the quarter-finals in 2012 and will be hoping to hit her best form on the red clay once more.

Kerber will face Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the first round with a possible quarter-final clash against Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.

Garbine Muguruza

Just in case

Spain’s Muguruza had her best result of the year in Rome last week, where she reached the semi-finals but lost in straight sets to Madison Keys.

Muguruza is an attractive player to watch but has struggled with decent results, although her result in Rome suggests she is in decent form ahead of Roland Garros.

At the 2014 event in Paris she upset then-defending champion Serena Williams in the second round and reached the quarter-finals and in 2015, the 22-year-old reached the final eight, where she lost to eventual finalist Lucie Safarova.

In the first round, she is up against Anna Karolína Schmiedlová of Slovakia and faces a potential quarter-final against Italian Roberta Vinci.

Victoria Azarenka

Just in case

The fifth seed’s preparations for Roland Garros haven’t been ideal and she comes into the tournament with a slight back injury, but has looked good while practicing in Paris. A two-time winner of the Australian Open, Azarenka can play on clay, having reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2013.

The 26-year-old started her year off well by winning the Brisbane International in Australia and then reached the Australia Open quarter-final. She won at Indian Wells, defeating Williams in the final, and two weeks late won in Miami.

In the first round in Paris, she faces Italian Karin Knapp with a possible quarter-final match against Williams.

Outsiders:

Spain’s Carla Suárez Navarro has added much to her game this season and has been more consistent, especially on clay courts. Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia remains a threat, having won the Roland Garros title in 2009. Dominika Cibulkova, meanwhile, has been in great form in 2016 reaching three WTA finals.

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