Most sports teams covet home field advantage. The support of the home fans is often counted as an extra player on the field, not to mention the opportunity for your friends and family to attend the game. Tennis players, however, are different; home tournaments are equated with home pressure. A major tournament on home soil puts the expectation of an entire nation on a player’s shoulders. In fact, it is very rare that a major tournament is won by a local player. The French Open, more commonly known as Roland Garros, is no different. The last French player to win the ladies singles title was Mary Pierce in 2000. Pierce also reached the final in 1994 when she lost to the Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Prior to Pierce, the last French woman to win the title was Francoise Durr in 1967.
In 2006, French woman Amelie Mauresmo won majors in Australia and at Wimbledon, but the best she could do at Roland Garros were quarterfinal appearances in 2003 and 2004. Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon champion, reached the semifinals of her home tournament in 2011, but was unable to advance to the finals.
What to Expect from the French Women at Roland Garros
The outlook for French women this year at Roland Garros does not appear promising. The current top-ranked French player is Kristina Mladenovic, who holds the #29 place in the WTA rankings. Mladenovic is a successful doubles player; she won the 2013 mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with partner Canadian Daniel Nestor. In 2014 Mladenovic and Nestor started the year off by winning the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open and Mladenovic partnered with Timea Babos to reach the Wimbledon ladies Doubles Final. Focussing more on her singles career in 201,5 Mladenovic has reached her current career high ranking of #29. At last year’s French Open, she defeated Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard–who held the WTA #6 ranking at the time–in the first round and followed that with another win to reach the third round. Mladenovic’s best Grand Slam result is a quarterfinal appearance at the US Open last September. This year, Mladenovic’s singles record is six wins to 14 losses, with early losses on the clay courts of both Madrid and Rome–not the confidence-building matches needed before heading to Paris.
The second-highest ranked French player is Alize Cornet, who currently is ranked #48. Cornet’s 2016 singles record is sitting at nine wins and eight losses, including a second round loss on the clay in Madrid and a first round loss on the clay in Rome. Last year was Cornet’s best showing at Roland Garros, where she reached the fourth round. Cornet is perhaps best known for the fact that she has defeated world #1 Serena Williams in their last three meetings, although none of these matches have taken place on the red clay.
The third-highest ranked French player is Caroline Garcia, who is #55 in the WTA rankings, down from her 2015 career high ranking of #25. A highly-touted player, Garcia has not had the results that were expected of her on the tour. In 2014, Garcia lost her first round match to Ana Ivanovic in a very disappointing performance where she appeared to cave from the pressure of playing at home; the trend continued as she also lost in the first round in 2015. A second round loss in Madrid and a first round loss in Rome this year make her extremely vulnerable to another first round exit at Roland Garros.
There are also two French veteran players in the main draw, Pauline Parmentier and Virginie Razzano. Parmentier is 30 years old and is currently ranked #95 in the world, although she reached a career high of #40 in 2008. Parmentier has spent much of the year playing in the qualifying rounds of tournaments and does not present a threat at Roland Garros. Razzano is 33 years old and currently holds the #186 position on the WTA rankings. In 2009, when Razzano was ranked #16 in the world she made it to the fourth round of the French Open. Like Parmentier, Razzano has spent most of the year playing in tournament qualifying rounds and Futures events, and does not appear to present a threat in Paris.
The French Tennis Federation has also granted wild card spots in the main draw to a number of their up and coming young players. The most notable of these players is Oceane Dodin, who at 20 years of age is ranked #149 in the world. Dodin has primarily been playing Futures tournaments, and lost in the first round in Paris last year. However, in 2015, she made it to the round of 64 in Australia, demonstrating her potential as a player.
There is, however, a bright light for the hometown crowd–in the Women’s Doubles draw. 2016 is an Olympic year, and many players have teamed up with compatriots in preparation for Rio, Brazil. Garcia and Mladenovic have played a number of tournaments together this year; in Charleston they defeated the #1 team of Mattek-Sands an Safarova to take the title. Garcia and Mladenovic also took the titles in Stuttgart and Madrid where both times they defeated the #1 ranked team of Hingis and Mirza. Heading into Paris, Garcia is ranked #8 on the WTA doubles rankings and Mladenovic is ranked #11.
As is often the case with Major tournaments, by the second week, the hometown players will likely no longer be in the draw and fans will still come in droves to watch the best players in the world.
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