The women’s tour in 2017 so far can be only described by one word: chaos. The year wears on, and the play that is 2017 WTA season is nearing the finale of Act II, the clay season climaxing in Paris with the second Grand Slam of the year. It is quite obvious that the champion in Melbourne, Serena Williams, won’t be there to make her case for Roland Garros, as she is pregnant and out for the season. Maria Sharapova’s return from the doping ban has been put on hold, and her Roland Garros ambitions fell apart before her eyes, as the organizers denied her a Wild Card to both the main draw and qualifying. Sharapova was marked as second favorite by the bookmakers, so this decision left many dumbfounded. Of the players that are going to be playing Roland Garros, we are going to explore the chances of the top players and some possible dark horses who could snatch the title.
What is going on with Angie Kerber? This question has been asked by fans, journalists, and perhaps even the World No. 1 herself. The German seems far from her last year’s self, and it doesn’t seem like clay is the answer. On clay in 2017, Kerber has taken losses to Anett Kontaveit, Eugenie Bouchard, Kristina Mladenovic, and Elina Svitolina, her third loss to the Ukrainian this year. Kerber has been struggling as a No. 1 this year; she is No. 13 in the Race to Singapore, and has failed to win a title this year. The struggle seems to be both in the German’s on-court and mental game, and with so many capable players even in the lower ranks striving on clay, it is difficult to see Kerber lifting the trophy at the end. Nonetheless, Kerber still won two Grand Slams last year, so despite this quite horrible start, she cannot be fully disregarded.
Title Probability: 6%
World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova has not carried her hard court form into clay. Earlier in the year, Pliskova won Brisbane and Doha, also reached semifinals in Indian Wells and Miami. On clay, her win/loss record is 4-4, but in some ways her losses are less worrying than Kerber’s. Pliskova lost in Stuttgart quarterfinals to Laura Siegemund, a player whose playing style she must despise. Then followed early losses in Prague and Madrid, to Camila Giorgi and Anastasija Sevastova, resepctive. Giorgi can hit anyone off the court on her day, and Sevastova was zoning, reaching the semifinals in Madrid. In Rome, Pliskova beat Lauren Davis and Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets before losing to Race No. 1 and eventual champion, Elina Svitolina. Pliskova got better as the clay season went on, meaning that her best result should be at Roland Garros. On her best day, the Czech is unstoppable on any surface.
Title Probability: 10%
Halep seems like the obvious favorite for Roland Garros, winning Madrid and reaching the final of Rome. She has notched wins over players like Samantha Stosur, Kiki Bertens, and Kristina Mladenovic. However, it is that Rome final where she suffered torn ankle ligaments that keeps her from being the favorite by far. Though Halep has been reported to move well in practice, it is far from the fitness required to win a Slam, especially with such a physical game on the most physically demanding surface. The Romanian also hasn’t beaten a Top 15 player on clay in 2017, but has only played once against a player of that statute, which was her loss to Svitolina. With the consistency she held over the clay season, Halep is almost a lock for the second week, but her road to the title won’t be easy.
Title Probability: 22%
The defending Roland Garros champion has been struggling with injury this year. Her semifinal retirement in Rome against Elina Svitolina was her 4th of the season. Despite her opening round losses to Anett Kontaveit in Stuttgart and Timea Bacsinszky in Madrid, Muguruza was doing really well in Rome, beating Ostapenko, Goerges, and Venus Williams before succumbing to injury. Muguruza has taken the week off to rest, and definitely has to be counted among the favorites as the defending champion.
Title Probability: 13%
As one of the chief favorites has to be counted Elina Svitolina. Her titles in Rome, Dubai, Taipei City, and Istanbul have resulted in the No. 1 ranking the Race to Singapore. After Simona Halep’s injury, Svitolina was dubbed the main favorite. However, her results are not so incredible. The Ukrainian won Istanbul, a WTA International without any Top 60 opposition, then lost to Saisai Zheng in Madrid. In Rome, Svitolina beat Alize Cornet, Mona Barthel, and Kristyna Pliskova, then moved on with a retirement from Muguruza and defeated an injured Halep in the final. The World No. 6 doesn’t feel natural on clay, so that might be also a factor that could play against her. All that said, Svitolina still won Rome, and has had the best year on the WTA tour so far.
Title Probability: 21%
Kuznetsova had a solid lead-up, reaching semifinals in Madrid and Round of 16 in Rome. The Russian’s title bid consists mostly of the fact that she has won Roland Garros twice before, and it is an acknowledged force on clay. However, Kuznetsova hasn’t played or beaten any of the major contestants, so she is yet to be tested on that front. The former No. 2’s best wins on the clay this year are against Kiki Bertens, Eugenie Bouchard, and Katerina Siniakova. She also reached the final of Indian Wells on the slow hard courts, which showed that Kuznetsova is still capable of going far in the major tournaments.
Title Probability: 7%
This may be the first time in her latter career that Venus Williams is considered among the favorites for Roland Garros. The American has played only one red clay lead-up event, Rome, where she beat Yaroslava Shvedova, Lesia Tsurenko, and Johanna Konta before losing to Muguruza in the quarterfinals. Venus has had great success this year, reaching the final of Australian Open, semifinals in Miami, and quarterfinals in Rome and Indian Wells. She has shown that she is a contender in the biggest events, even at 36 years old.
Title Probability: 6%
Kristina Mladenovic has been completely transformed this season, and is on track to break Top 10. The Frenchwoman took the title in St. Petersburg, final in Acapulco, and semifinal in Indian Wells before coming to clay. On the red dirt, Mladenovic found more success, reaching the finals in Stuttgart and Madrid. The only stain on the otherwise perfect resume was Mladenovic’s first round exit in Rome to Goerges. The World No. 14 will face a lot of pressure at her home grand slam, but last year she seemed to strive under it as she won the Women’s Doubles with her countrywoman Caroline Garcia, so we can expect great things from Mladenovic this Roland Garros.
Title Probability: 10%
If you have been counting along, you may discover that the above percentages add up to only 95%. I would like to reserve the remaining 5% for the other players that will surely be eyeing the Roland Garros trophy, such as Dominika Cibulkova, Johanna Konta, Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, just to name a few other plausible winners. The tournament really is that wide-open.
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