French Open women's seed report: Serena the big favorite (again)

Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

No. 1 Serena Williams is seeking to win her second French Open title in a row and third overall.

SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the French Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions. Click here for the men's report. The women's draw is available here.

Top 16 seeds

1. Serena Williams: Simply the best, as she showed in Rome, which should fire her with confidence. A source of hope for the field: She has won "only" two of her last five Grand Slam tournaments. Still, it'd be a considerable surprise if the 32-year-old doesn't defend her title. Her draw isn't the most benign, with sister Venus a possibility in the third round and Maria Sharapova looming in the quarterfinals, but it shouldn't much matter.

NGUYEN: Five minutes with Serena Williams

2. Li Na: It's hard to see her beating Serena in a final. But if she catches a break and avoids that scenario -- as she did in Melbourne -- the 2011 French Open champion is as good a bet as any player to win.

3. Agnieszka Radwanska: A disarmingly clever player. We know that she can play deep into a major. Cab she take the next step?

4. Simona Halep: Credit Halep, 22, for this mid-career rise. (I never thought we'd hear the phrase "the Halep quarter.") But my sense is that she's not quite ready to contend for the biggest prizes. A second-week showing would add to her bona fides.

5. Petra Kvitova: Always dangerous. But there always seems to be something to prevent her from fulfilling her vast potential. Cool conditions will help her.

6. Jelena Jankovic: The inimitable J.J. is back in sniffing distance of the top five, which makes life more fun.

7. Maria Sharapova: The 2012 French Open champion came alive with titles in Stuttgart and Madrid, and she's 47-4 on clay (including three losses to Serena) since 2011. Unfortunately for Sharapova, though, she's in Serena's quarter, and could face Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round.

8. Angelique Kerber: What's German for "admirably solid but seldom spectacular"?

NGUYEN: French Open storylines to watch

9. Dominika Cibulkova: The Australian Open finalist has been as deep as the semifinals (2009) at Roland Garros.

10. Sara Errani: The 27-year-old Italian lacks weapons, but she is a 2012 finalist and '13 semifinalist who has played well lately. Errani gets a tough first-round match against Madison Keys.

Photo: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, has played well in the lead-up tournaments.

11. Ana Ivanovic: The 2008 winner is playing her best ball in recent memory. After Serena -- whom she beat, incidentally, in their last Grand Slam match, at the Australian Open -- she might stand as good a chance as anyone.

12. Flavia Pennetta: The flashy, likable Italian generally plays well at big events. And she is in a soft section of the draw.

13. Caroline Wozniacki: How do you not root for her after what she endured this week? She opens against former U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer.

14. Carla Suarez Navarro: Firmly in the "sleeper" category, and she gets bonus points for that picturesque sweeping one-hander. A player to watch.

Complete French Open television schedule

15. Sloane Stephens: The 21-year-old American has suffered several dismal, listless losses this year, many of them on clay, but she comes to play at the majors. Stephens sure can't complain about her draw -- provided she can get past her opener against the 28-year-old Peng Shuai, who has dominated both of their matches, on clay.

16. Sabine Lisicki: An up-and-down player whose game is ill-suited for the slow stuff. Wait for Wimbledon.

SI Now: Will Serena Williams dominate the 2014 French Open?
On Thursday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated executive editor Jon Wertheim and senior writer Richard Deitsch discuss Serena Williams' historic dominance and possible contenders that could beat her.

Seeds 17-32 to watch

18. Eugenie Bouchard: Her results have been building steadily — and she's a better clay-courter than she's given credit for being.

19. Sam Stosur: The 2010 finalist is on the downside of her perplexing career. But the 30-year-old Australian can play well on clay -- provided her head is willing.

20. Alize Cornet: The Frenchwoman always brings the drama, but she's also figured out how to win close matches.

22. Ekaterina Makarova: Good athlete with a solid all-around game, though clay is not her best surface.

23. Lucie Safarova: She can beat anyone -- and also lose to anyone -- on a given day.

26. Sorana Cirstea: Not a big hitter but a fun, resourceful player.

27. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The 2009 champion made the Portugal Open final and lost a third-set tiebreaker to Radwanska in Madrid.

28. Andrea Petkovic: The German has worked her way back from tennis' disabled list and is playing top-10-caliber tennis.

29. Venus Williams: The seven-time major champion hasn't been past the third round of a Slam since 2011. Serena looms in the third round.

NGUYEN: Keys not your typical 19-year-old

Dark horse stable

Garbine Muguruza: A potential future star. (And she's only 20.)

Elina Svitolina: A potential future star. (And she's only 19.)

Madison Keys: A potential future star. (And she's only 19.)

Donna Vekic: A potential future star. (And she's only 17.)

Camila Giorgi: The Italian is an up-and-down player, but she's defeated Sharapova and Cibulkova this year.

Caroline Garcia: The 20-year-old Frenchwoman has a fine all-around game and the support of the crowd. If only she didn't start against Ivanovic.

Christina McHale: Nice clay-court resurgence for the 22-year-old American, who made the third round as a qualifier at the Italian Open and reached the semifinals at this week's Strasbourg International.

NGUYEN: French Open draw winners and losers

First-round matches to watch

Ana Ivanovic vs. Caroline Garcia: Both are potential semifinalists.

Belinda Bencic vs. Venus Williams: Venus, who turns 34 next month, is nearly twice the age of the 17-year-old Bencic, another of the WTA's promising young players.

Sara Errani vs. Madison Keys: Even on a surface more suited to Errani, Keys' power might be unanswerable. This is my first-round upset special.

Sloane Stephens vs. Peng Shuai: The crafty veteran is hardly an ideal first opponent for Stephens.

Doubles winners

Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani: This would give the reigning Australian Open champions the first two legs of the Grand Slam this year.

Singles picks

Semifinals: Serena Williams vs. total surprise (Carla Suarez Navarro?); Li Na vs. Ana Ivanovic

Final: Serena Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic

Winner: Serena Williams

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