Breaking down the French Open 2017 women's draw, including matches to watch, dark horses and more.
1 Angelique Kerber (GER)
A top seed numerically only. A first round loser last year—the lone lousy Slam of her 2016 campaign—she comes in having lost four of her last six matches. And she draws Makarova in round one? We still believe she’s capable of top-flight tennis but wait till grass is underfoot.
2 Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
The major titles will come, but clay will be a challenge, where her hard, flat (typically Czech) strokes are given too little margin for error. A good—but not great—year so far.
3 Simona Halep (ROU)
Even with the ankle injury, she’ll likely be the favorite. Hard to recall the last time a Slam-less player has been such a favorite to win a Slam. But it’s well-deserved here. After a slow start, Halep has been playing top five tennis on clay, including winning the Madrid title.
4 Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
A terrific player who, lamentably, shares a shaky relationship with expectation—and sadly that’s what being a defending champ entails. She could repeat. She could also lose her first match to another former champ, Francesca Schiavone.
5 Elina Svitolina (UKR)
A career high ranking after winning her fourth title of the year in Rome. Due for a true breakthrough at a major. If so, she has a strong shot at finishing the year at No. 1. A player to watch but has barely been deep in a Slam; hard to pick a player with so little big-match experience.
6 Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
A giant-killer who punches above her height and embraces competition. Capable of getting outhit but also capable of winning the title. Wish there were momentum—only two clay wins this year—but squarely on this contender list.
7 Johanna Konta (GBR)
All credit to Konta for her upward mobility. Making improvements even on clay, her worst surface. Yet to win a match at Roland Garros in her career. And yet she has to be a considered a contender.
8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
A terminally underrated player and former Roland Garros winner who could easily steal her third major. Even a few weeks from 32, she can play with anyone. Her erratic swings are lessening. She is still athletic but now relies on accumulated experience as well.
9 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
A crafty counter-puncher but the clay seems to mess with her timing. Never plays as well on clay as you think she should.
10 Venus Williams (USA)
Crazy as this sounds, a few weeks from turning 37, she has a real shot—we mentioned this was crazy, right?—to win the whole thing. Will benefit from a day off between matches. And she is coming off a run to the final at the previous major.
11 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Even on clay, her athleticism and experience make her a contender. But the right lower back injury is unfortunate.
12 Madison Keys (USA)
Wish she were coming in with more momentum, more confidence, more match play in 2017 and more confidence on clay. But on horsepower alone, she is a threat. (Otherwise, Wimbledon starts in five weeks.)
13 Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
Your 2017 French Open champion. She’s terrifically athletic. She’s learning to win. She’ll be buoyed by the home crowd.
14 Elena Vesnina (RUS)
Credit her for getting to this poin —and winning Indian Wells—but not a threat on clay. At least not in singles.
15. Petra Kvitova (CZE)
That she simply in the draw ought to elicit smiles.
16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Quietly putting together another solid year. And quietly becoming a reliable player at the majors. It took a while for the 2006 junior Australian Open champ, but nice to see her game coalescing.
17 Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
The best player you’ve (likely) never seen.
18 Kiki Bertens (NED)
A semifinalist last year, Bertens is back.
19 CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)
On serve and athleticism alone, no reason she can’t make a deep run.
21 Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)
Wish there were more weaponry but she’s the kind of slick, clay-comfortable player who could last deep into Week Two.
22 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)
Coming off a semifinal at the previous major.
23 Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Former finalist thrives on clay, where she has time to line up her strokes.
24 Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
Pluck lends itself well to clay.
25 Lauren Davis (USA)
26 Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
Charleston winner already has a clay court title.
27 Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
A run to the quarters last year ought to fire her with confidence (and concerns about defending many points.)
28 Caroline Garcia (FRA)
Begged off her doubles to focus on singles. Now would be a good time to validate that choice.
29 Ana Konjuh (CRO)
The breakthrough is coming.
***Special commendation for Laura Siegemund, a 29-year-old, who was playing terrific tennis in 2017 and, sadly, injured her knee and won’t post for Roland Garros. Wish her well in recovery.
Dark horse nation
Francesca Schiavone: Former champ playing surprisingly, admirably well in her last year on tour.
Timea Babos: Owner of a top five serve.
Alison Riske: Always dangerous, even on clay.
Lucie Safarova: A finalist two years ago.
Genie Bouchard: A semifinalist three years ago (coming off a defeat of Sharapova.)
Jelena Jankovic: Her best days are behind her, but former No. 1 can still have her moments.
Alize Cornet: (As an aside: “Reine du theater” is “drama queen” in French.)
Oceane Dodin: French talent with a lot of game who’s still figuring out how to deploy it.
First round matches to watch
Kerber vs. Ekatarina Makarova: A real chance the top seed doesn't make it out of round one.
Muguruza vs. Schiavone: Rare to see two former champs square off in round one.
Ash Barty vs. Madison Keys: To mix surfaces, Barty would cement her comeback on clay if she could take down a star like Keys.
Cornet vs. Babos: Never mind the drama, good match of offense/defense.
Makarova d. Kerber
Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan: Heavy favorites after winning Madrid and Rome. (Is there a more underrated story in tennis than the doubles success of Hingis?)
Svitolina d. total unknown
Mladenovic d. Kuznetsova
Mladenovic d. Svitolina