Simona Halep, the 2018 winner, could be challenged by Naomi Osaka among others but is Serena Williams undercooked?
There were emotional scenes when the Romanian ended her wait for a first major at the French Open last year. Having thrown away an imposing lead over Jelena Ostapenko in the 2017 final, Halep showed tremendous heart to fight back from a set and a break down against Sloane Stephens and become a grand slam champion. With that weight lifted off her shoulders, the 27-year-old should be even more dangerous. However, she needs to recover from a shock defeat by Marketa Vondrousova in Rome.
The world No 1 proved her breakthrough win at last year’s US Open was no flash in the pan when she followed it up with victory over Petra Kvitova in a tense Australian Open final in January. However, the quirky 21-year-old Japanese player still needs to work on her game on clay. She has never made it past the third round of the French Open and there are concerns over her fitness after she withdrew from her Italian Open quarter-final against Kiki Bertens with a hand injury.
The 27-year-old Dutchwoman heads to Paris as an outside bet but the world No 4’s list of victims at the Madrid Open means she should not be underestimated. Ostapenko, Kvitova and Stephens were all sent on their way before Halep was beaten in straight sets in the final. Bertens lost a little momentum when she fell to Johanna Konta in their Italian Open semi-final but the former French Open semi-finalist looks in good nick.
The American will need to shake off the rust if she is going to win her fourth French Open title. Williams has played only nine singles matches in 2019 and her decision to pull out of her Italian Open meeting with Venus Williams was not an encouraging sign. She heads to Paris short of practice on clay – a solitary win over Rebecca Peterson is no way to limber up for the Roland Garros grind – and could be vulnerable in the early rounds. That said, Williams can never be written off.