Year of the Dark Horse: The Top Outsiders In the Women's French Open


There have been some seriously early eliminations of female seeds in the French Open draw.

First, the recently jilted Caroline Wozniacki went down in three sets to Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer – no doubt more than a little perturbed by the sudden loss of her fiance Rory McIlroy.

First round also saw the disappearance of No.2 seed Na Li (the 2011 champion) who fell to France’s Kristina Mladenovic, a player not even ranked in the world top 100.

As if this wasn’t enough, round two saw both Williams sisters waving goodbye to Paris. Serena lost 2-6, 2-6 to a very crafty Garbine Muguruza, while Venus lost in three to Slovakia’s Anna Schmiedlova.

A great shame since the sisters would have met in the following round – a match-up which is always eminently watchable, not for its tennis but for its sheer pantomime.

But there’s no need to be upset by all these upsets. With a few mighty oaks felled, there’s now room for saplings to get their share of the sunlight.

The obvious major contender is now Maria Sharapova. French Open champion in 2012, the Russian is now the 2.70 favourite.

But that’s all a bit obvious, isn’t it? Far more interesting to assess some of the lower-ranked players who might fare well.

 

Spaniards to look out for

These girls grow up eating red clay for breakfast. Muguruza (26.00 to win) will be fearless after dispatching Serena and allowing her only four games.

But Carla Suarez Navarro (61.00) is worth watching, too. She may look like a gawky teenage boy but this Canary Islander has proved her mettle with a win this year at the Portugal Open, and a quarter-final showing in Rome.

Silvia Soler-Espinosa (301.00) is much lower-ranked (85 in the world) but showed class in Strasbourg where she reached the final.

 

French woman most likely to shine

Don’t underestimate Kristina Mladenovic (151.00), the 21-year-old who did for Na Li. However far she gets in Paris, she’s sure to break well into the world top 100. And, backed by a home crowd, she may even cause further upsets.

 

Seed to watch out for

Italy’s Sara Errani (17.00) may only be the 10th seed but she packs a powerful punch. And it’s worth noting that she reached the final in Rome.

 

The underrated Pole

Agnieszka Radwanska (10.00) reached the quarter-finals of the French Open last year – and she admits clay isn't her best surface – but with Serena and Na Li gone, she must make the most of her chance and step up to the mark.

 

The Romanian on a roll

22-year-old Simona Halep (second favourite at 5.80) has had a stunning year, reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, winning in Doha and reaching the final in Madrid. Hence the world No.4 ranking.

 

The sassy Canadian

In this sport you only need blonde hair and a pretty face to be touted as the new Maria Sharapova. Sure enough, Eugenie Bouchard (21.00) has earned that moniker. But she’s very handy on court, too. Already this year she has reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, and she won on clay in Nurnberg.

 

The veteran

Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova (26.00) may be past her best, but there’s no one in her half of the draw she couldn't beat on a good day. Bear in mind she reached the final in Estoril and, back in 2009, won the French Open.

 

The very fast Slovak

What about Dominka Cibulkova at 34.00? A poor clay-court season so far but she did reach the French Open semis in 2009 and the quarters in 2012.

Bet on the women's French Open champion here.