2018 French Open – Women’s Singles Preview

French Open 2018 – Women’s Preview

May 28 – June 10

While the men’s champion has been known before a ball is even hit for most of the last decade, as Rafael Nadal has risen to being the greatest clay-courter of all time, the ladies’ champion has been decidedly harder to pick.

That was never truer than 12 months ago when Jelena Ostapenko stunned the field to win not only win her first ever Grand Slam but her maiden WTA title. However, while the Australian Open saw seven women vying for favouritism between 4/1 and 7/1 the markets have a clearer opinion of this one as Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina are the only players priced in single figures.

There are some clear form trends we can use to help predict the winner though:

  • Since 1997, 18 of 21 champions had reached at least one final in their last four tournaments
  • Since 1997, 20 of 21 champions had reached at least one semi-final in their last three tournaments while 17 had at least two semis in their last four events
  • 14 of the 18 champions since 2000 have won one of their last four tournaments

 

Form Guide – Rome, Madrid, plus two previous tournaments

PlayerRome FPMadrid FPEventFPEventFP
Simona HalepRUQFStuttgartQFMiamiRd3
Garbine MuguruzaRd2Rd3StuttgartRd2MonterreyW
Elina SvitolinaWRd2StuttgartQFMiamiQF
Serena WilliamsDNPDNPMiamiRd1Indian WellsRd3
Jelena OstapenkoQFRd1StuttgartQFMiamiRU
Maria SharapovaSFQFStuttgartRd1Indian WellsRd1
Karolina PliskovaRd2SFStuttgartWMiamiQF
Daria KasatkinaRd3QFPragueRd1StuttgartRd1
Petra KvitovaDNPWPragueWStuttgartRd1
Caroline WozniackiQFRd3IstanbulQFMiamiRd2
Kiki Bertens*Rd1RUStuttgartRd1CharlestonW

* Bertens is the only player playing the week before the French Open (Nurnberg) where she’s currently in the QFs at the time of writing


Quarter One

World No.1 and 2018 WTA Race leader, Simona Halep, heads the draw and will be looking to finally break her Grand Slam duck. Twice a finalist here, plus the runner-up at this year’s Australian Open, she may never get a better chance. Her form is decent, with a runners-up showing in Rome, although her capitulation in the final is a concern as she’s now lost six of her last seven finals, all of which she started as the favourite. Nevertheless, her abilities on clay, where she’s reached the final at four of the five Premier or Grand Slam events on the surface since the start of 2017, mark her out as the deserving favourite.

The draw should see her take on the best of the home players, with a scheduled third round against Kristina Mladenovic before a potential quarter-final with Caroline Garcia. Mladenovic should pose few problems after a year of largely dismal form but Garcia would be a tougher test – she reached the semis in Stuttgart, where she beat Sharapova and Svitolina, and in Madrid. However, Halep beat her comfortably in Rome and last year was the first time in seven attempts she’d advanced past the second round here.

A Last 16 clash with Elise Mertens is a potential banana skin for Halep, with her opponent again likely to be heavily favoured by the local support, but while the Belgian has won two minor WTA titles on clay in 2018 this is her weakest surface and the top seed should prove too strong.

Other fancied seeds in this top section include former world no.1 Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens. This is Kerber’s weakest surface and she’s lost in the opening round here in the last two years so we don’t expect her to trouble the field. Bertens, however, fits our form trends nicely and she’s a big threat to Garcia’s place in the quarter-finals and was a semi-finalist here two years ago. However, Halep should be the one who comes through to the semis this time and she can be relatively happy with a draw that sees her avoid the most dangerous floaters.


Quarter Two

The same can’t be said of the big names in the second quarter. 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza starts off against the 2009 champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has reached at least the fourth round in 12 of the last 14 years. Life does get easier from there, with none of the other seeds in her ‘16’ – Pavlyuchenkova, Rybarikova, or Vandeweghe – looking like potential champions on this surface. However, the Spaniard’s form over the last three months has been poor, exiting early at six of her last seven events.

Compared to the other top-eight seed in this quarter though, Muguruza has a dream draw. Karolina Pliskova could potentially face Lucie Safarova (2015 French Open finalist) in the second round, followed by Maria Sharapova and then Serena Williams just to reach the quarter-finals. Pliskova’s form has been excellent though, winning Stuttgart and reaching the final in Madrid where she beat Halep.

Sharapova has been installed as the third favourite after reaching the semis in Rome and quarters in Madrid. However, Ostapenko was her only top 10 victim in those tournaments and she still looks a few ticks short of the level she was at before her ban and we’d expect Pliskova to take her out, and the tough draw means her outright price looks far too short.

Serena, faces the Czech’s twin in the opening round, and with neither the seeds around her, Julia Goerges and Ashleigh Barty, at their best on clay she should move through to a Last 16 clash with the other Pliskova. However, she hasn’t played a match on clay for two years and we wouldn’t put anyone off taking her on in those opening rounds. Overall, this quarter looks wide open due to half the top eight favourites being here but the form guide suggests Pliskova looks the most likely to come through.


Quarter Three

Elina Svitolina is the big favourite here and but for her Grand Slam record of never bettering the quarter-finals she might have started as the favourite for the whole thing. She successfully defended her Rome title, thrashing Halep in the final and has reached at least the Last 16 in each of the last four Slams. Moreover, this is clearly her best surface and with a fantastic draw she’s surely ready to go a step further.

It’s hard to see any stumbling blocks before the quarter-finals, with projected Last 16 opponents of Madison Keys or Naomi Osaka far more dangerous on faster surfaces. Defending champion, Jelena Ostapenko, is seeded to meet her in the quarters but the streaky Latvian has lost to lower ranked opponents at all 11 of her events this year and this still looks like her weakest surface despite what happened 12 months ago.

A second round against the other heavyweight floater, Victoria Azarenka, could do for Ostapenko, but this is by far Azarenka’s weakest surface. As is the case for other seeds in this ‘16’ – Venus Williams, Jo Konta and Barbora Strycova. All in all it suggests that Svitolina will have no problems reaching a first Slam semi-final.


Quarter Four

If the third quarter is relatively weak then the fourth looks even weaker, with none of the top six favourites in the betting here and six of the 13 qualifiers have also landed in this quarter. Caroline Wozniacki is the second seed but she’s not made the semis at a Premier or Grand Slam event on clay for more than seven years. Given the lack of opposition around her she has every chance of making the fourth round though.

There the Dane could face either the upcoming Russian Darya Kasatkina or the experienced Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard is a tricky competitor and reached the fourth round at last year’s US Open before making the quarters at the Australian Open in January. With this being her best surface she is certainly dangerous to the higher ranked seeds, as Svitolina discovered in Madrid. However, our preference is for Kasatkina. She beat Muguruza in Madrid before bageling Svitolina in Rome (though she was beaten in the end). Runs to the finals in Dubai and Indian Wells earlier this year marked her down as a future star and she’s reached the third round in her two previous visits to Roland Garros.

On the other side of this quarter, Petra Kvitova will be the player to beat. She’s on an 11 match winning streak after claiming titles in Madrid and Prague and has two other titles to her name since the start of February. While clay might not be her best surface she’s a former semi-finalist here and she looks to be in great shape. However, Anett Kontaveit is her potential third round opponent and is certainly one of the trickier lower seeds as she’s reached the semis in two of her last three clay events and extended Kvitova to a third set in Madrid. The Last 16 should be easier for whoever makes it but we fancy Kastakina to confirm her promise and come though to win the quarter.


Conclusion

There have been four Premier events on clay since the start of 2017, plus last year’s French Open, and of the 10 finalists six have been either Halep or Svitolina. So while much of the women’s game suffers from a lack of consistency, with many players finding clay their weakest surface, that is not the case for these two. One thing to note is that in contrast to Halep’s poor record in finals that we’ve already mentioned, Svitolina has won eight finals in a row since the start of 2017 while dropping just one set, but we’re happy to back both.

In particular, we rate Svitolina as outstanding value to win her quarter. Meanwhile, Pliskova is worth a small punt to win her quarter given she’s only the fourth favourite and her recent form demands a little more respect than that. And at the bottom of the draw, Kasatkina is worth a punt given the lack of quality alternatives. Meanwhile, the loaded nature of the second quarter means we’ll avoid that section.

 


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Simona Halep to Win at 7.0 for 1. 5 units

BACK – Elina Svitolina to Win at 7.6 for 1.5 units

BACK – Elina Svitolina to Win Quarter Three – betting advice: Roll up one unit on Svitolina each match till the semis for 1 unit

BACK – Karolina Pliskova to Win Quarter Two – betting advice: Roll up one unit on Pliskova each match till the final for 1 unit

BACK – Darya Kasatkina to Win Quarter Four – betting advice: Roll up one unit on Kasatkina each match till the final for 1 unit


Related Articles

2018 French Open – Men’s Singles Preview

Form Labs take a look at the Men's side of the 2018 French Open with Rafael Nadal looking to ...

Read More

Tennis Predictions Model

The Data Scientist’s Tennis Predictions Model identifies trading & betting opportunities throughout ATP & WTA tournaments around the world.  ...

Read More

Tennis: ELO Modelling

In the previous article, I gave an overview of the different approaches used to model tennis matches. In this ...

Read More