By Ros Satar

  • Defending champion: Serena Williams
  • Top seeds: Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza
  • Will Williams equal Steffi Graf’s record, or will a new name adorn the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen

PARIS, FRANCE – Defending champion Serena Williams looks to be back to winning ways, but there are some interesting challengers to the World No 1’s crown.

Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules

Top Quarter – Serena Williams / Victoria Azarenka

If all goes to seeding we could be in for a corker of a quarter-final in store. Williams hits the court having won the Rome title, and actually looks in pretty good form. After wowing the crowds at the Fora Italico with her Italian, is she set to do the same again in Paris?

Provided France’s Kristina Mladenovic can get past former champion Francesca Schiavone not to mention being on home turf (or dirt, as the case may be), she is likely to be the first seed that Williams encounters

Another former champion Ana Ivanovic really ought to be heading for a round four showdown with Williams, and whilst that could be a match to savour, things still have been quite up and down for the Serbian, who has already been struggling a little with injury this year.

Spain’s Carla Suárez Navarro is another steady prospect at the other end of this bracket, and often just flies under the radar and really ought to have done better than just a solitary quarter-final, in 2014. Her possible third round clash may put a spanner in the works though as a spirited dash through Madrid to the final by Dominika Cibulkova may end the Spaniard’s run prematurely – again.

2014 French Open semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic has had a rough ride on the clay this year, and she opens against the returning Laura Robson, making the most of her protected ranking while she can. This should be winnable of course for the German, but Robson knows that speed and sharpness is only going to come with match play, and she has been packing in the matches with no after effects on her wrist. That could be a seed for the taking.

After a glorious start to the year with the Brisbane title, and the Indian Wells title, injury has had the better of Azarenka in recent months, and of the two big hitters who head up this quarter – the Belarusian is the one potential shock if she is not quite back to form, but is she is – we ought to expect a real battle to the finish.

 

Second Quarter – Angelique Kerber / Timea Bacsinszky

It really has been a bit of a season for Australian Open champion Kerber, who had the perhaps expected slow start after her landmark win over Williams in Melbourne, before bagging herself another Porsche in Stuttgart, but it is safe to sat that fatigue took its toll in the vital preparation tournaments in Madrid and Rome with opening round exits in both.

She should be able to handle Daria Kasatkina as her seeded third round opponent, and she could be facing a Slam rematch with Britain’s Johanna Konta, who has a tough start against Julia Goerges. Don’t count out Madison Keys who tackled Williams in the final in Rome – she seems to have clicked on the clay, and could well be one to watch.

Big sister Venus Williams heads up the other side of this bracket, and while by rights we should have a battle of the veterans between Williams the elder and Jelena Jankovic, this section could well be devoid of seeds rather rapidly.

Rounding out the quarter, tricky Monica Niculescu will hope to find some form – her singles campaigns on the clay have not been too great, and could be a chance for someone to spring a surprise, while the unseeded Eugenie Bouchard could steal a march, if she can upend Bacsinszky to make it out of the quarter.

 

Third Quarter Petra Kvitova / Garbiñe Muguruza

Even though seeded below Roberta Vinci, who heads up this quarter, we think that Irina-Camelia Begu’s form this clay season has been good enough to halt the Italian in her last hurrah, while Kvitova can probably handle compatriot Karolina Pliskova, should they face each other in the third round. Last year’s Madrid champion loves to just play her game on the clay and if she is fit and over the issues that dogged her in Madrid and Rome she should be good for the quarters.

Svetlana Kuznetsova looks to be a likely round four candidate, and we expect Muguruza to fly through her side of the bracket, but don’t be surprised to see a spirited battle between the tour veteran and former champion versus Muguruza who many expect to deliver sooner rather than later in the Slam department.

 

Bottom Quarter – Simona Halep / Agnieszka Radwanska

Another player who really should be up there contending for the Slams consistently is Halep, who dialled in to a great run in Madrid, only to crash out listlessly in Rome. Her route to the quarter-final actually could be on the tricky side – we expect to see her face either former French Open finalist Sam Stosur or last year’s runner-up Lucie Safarova   – she may prefer the Czech over whom she has a leading head to head. When she is in the zone and feeling on form, she should be an unstoppable form, but if that negativity sets in, she could be fair game for a high level seed shock.

In fact this whole bottom quarter could turn on its head. While it was humorous to see Radwanska struggle to explain why she was not that great on clay at the Stuttgart opening ceremony she still managed to make it to the semi-finals there, but lost a scrappy battle to Cibulkova in Madrid, and stuck to her guns not to front up at Rome. She has never been past the quarter-finals – and if she can get past a potential tricky third round against Barbora Strycova, then we pick her to at least match her best performance to date.

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