Will a new champion emerge from the pack of women’s contenders at Roland Garros?
That is the major theme in the final week of the women’s singles tournament that was highlighted in the first week by the Grand Slam return of Serena Williams.
Maria Sharapova was the beneficiary of the withdrawal of Williams, who could not post against her Russian rival in the fourth round due to a pectoral muscle problem. Sharapova is the most experienced of the women in the quarterfinals with five major titles, including two at Roland Garros. Sharapova was not known for her clay court skills early in her career , describing herself as a “cow on ice” once about her moving ability on the French red clay. However, she has adjusted well to say the least, winning title in Paris in 2012 and 2014.
Like Williams, Sharapova is on the comeback trail, after serving a suspension of 15 months for testing for an illegal substance. She is seeded No. 28 and appears to be playing her best tennis – and is in the best condition – since she came back to tennis last Spring. She famously was denied a wild card entry into the French Open last year by the French Tennis Federation, so the 31-year-old Sharapova may also be playing with an axe to grind in Paris, providing further motivation that could take her all the way to the title.
Her quarterfinal opponent, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, is also a former French singles champion, having won the title in 2016 with an upset of Serena Williams in the final. Two years earlier, she upset Serena in the second round in Paris, so the French clay is certainly where she is most comfortable, like most Spanish players area.
Sharapova and Muguruza are the only former French champions left in the draw and they are joined by former Australian and US Open champion Angie Kerber and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens as the only major champions left in the draw.
Stephens, seeded No. 10, was the early pick to win the event of ESPN commentator and former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe and she appears to be peaking and has a clear path to the final. Her good friend and fellow American Madison Keys, seeded No. 14, appears to be her only threat to reaching the final, although the tricky Russian clay-court Daria Kasatkina, the No. 14 seed, could cause a headache. Stephens, surprisingly to 888sport fans, is the second-to-last betting favorite among the quarterfinalists.
Simona Halep is without question the best woman tennis player without a major singles title. She and Keys are the two players left in the draw with the best pedigree among the non-Slam winners. Halep, the No. 1 seed, has lost two two French Open finals, including last year’s painful loss to Jelena Ostapenko. She also lost a heart-breaker Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki. Halep has to deal with her mental demons if she is to break through and win her first major singles title. Despite her failures on the biggest stages of the sport, she is the favorite to win the title in Roland Garros betting circles.