As certain as the men’s draw at Roland Garros has been over the last 14 years, a span which has seen Rafael Nadal capture 11 titles, the women’s side of the French Open is notoriously unpredictable.
It’s been over a decade since a woman repeated as champion (Justine Henin, 2005-07) and six of the last 11 winners were not only first-time winners at the French, but had never won a Grand Slam before.
That includes last year’s champion, Simona Halep, who finally broke through after falling in three prior Grand Slam finals (two in Paris).
When it comes to the opinion of professional oddsmakers, Simona Halep and Kiki Bertens have the best chance to win the 2019 title. Halep is given a 23.5% chance to win, Bertens is given a 14% chance, and no one else is higher than 9%.
Halep Hasn’t Had Much Recent Success
While Halep’s track record at Roland Garros (one title, two finals losses) certainly inspires confidence, there’s certainly cause for concern.
Since following up her 2018 French Open crown with a win at the Canadian Open, she has not won a tournament. She didn’t even win a match at the 2018 US Open or in Beijing at the end of last year. This year, sans coach Darren Cahill, she has failed to capture any titles.
Her quarter shapes up quite favorably at least. Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are grouped together in the first quarter; Bertens has Sloane Stephens in her draw; and the bottom quarter includes Karolina Pliskova, Anastasija Sevastova, and few other dangerous veterans.
Halep’s toughest competition before the quarterfinals looks to be Aryna Sabalenka or Daria Kasatkina.
Bertens Poised to Break Through?
Bertens, who started the year ranked no. 9, is up to no. 4 in the world.
She has a rock-solid 26/10 singles record on the season, and she’s only lost two matches in straight sets all year.
She’s had a modicum of success at Roland Garros, to boot, reaching the semis in 2016 and the round of 16 in 2014. Her big first serve was a huge difference maker. She served at an elite 74% and won 92% of points on her first serve.
But, this year, she has a tough draw. Not only is Sloane Stephens (the 2018 runner-up) in her quarter of the bracket, so is 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza and dangerous Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
Beware Maria Sakkari
If the 2019 tournament is going to produce a true underdog story, like Jelena Ostapenko who won the 2017 title while ranked 47th in the world, Maria Sakkari is a viable candidate.
The 23-year-old Greek won a clay-court tune-up in Morocco, reached the semi-finals in Rome, and owns clay-court wins over Bertens, Johanna Konta, Elise Mertens, and Petra Kvitova already this year.
She started her 2019 French Open en fuego, beating American Anna Tatishvili 6-0, 6-1. She won 30 points on Tatishvhili’s serve, while the American only won 31 points in the entire match.
She’s in the top-quarter of the bracket with world No. 1 Naomi Osaka and Serena, but clay is not Osaka’s best surface, and she wouldn’t have to face Serena until the round of 16.