French Open Day One Women's Tips: Osaka with plenty to prove on clay

Romanian Tennis Player Patricia Maria Tig
Patricia Maria Tig is a fascinating round one opponent for Naomi Osaka...

There's a fascinating opening day's play in the women's tournament at the French Open today, and returning to preview the action is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston.

"If I had to pick a big name who might struggle today I would probably go with Naomi Osaka, who has lost two of her three matches on clay this year - both as a solid favourite."

Injury doubts over both Azarenka and Kuznetsova

In my post-draw preview, I mentioned that there are some superb-looking opening round clashes in Paris and several are on the schedule today, making for great viewing for the neutral. The ones I want to discuss are in the latter half of the schedule, and I'll start off with former top-five players Victoria Azarenka facing Svetlana Kuznetsova.

It's Azarenka who is favourite at 1.321/3, but we have to point out that she's been struggling with a back injury in recent months, which saw her give walkovers in Doha in March and at the start of May in Madrid - her last tournament. Kuznetsova has also had some fitness issues - a hamstring issue has seen her not play a competitive match for over two months - and this really is a guessing game in advance as to the condition of the duo. We shall find out some answers later today.

Konjuh showing signs of getting her previous level

Aryna Sabalenka is one of the pre-tournament market leaders and the Belarussian should, in theory, have an excellent chance of reaching the latter stages. However, she could have received an easier draw than Ana Konjuh, who has qualified to be here after reaching the final in Belgrade when ranked just inside the top 200.

Of course, Konjuh is a far better player than her ranking, and has been beset by injury in recent years but it's worth noting that she was tipped by many to be a top-ten player when she broke through on tour a few years back and is showing signs of getting back to a high level - she also made the fourth round in the Miami 1000 level tournament at the end of March with high-profile wins over Iga Swiatek and Madison Keys.

I'm really interested in how far Konjuh can push Sabalenka today, despite Sabalenka being a 1.152/13 favourite to progress.

Anisimova and Kudermetova should be a competitive clash

Another competitive clash to monitor will be Amanda Anismova against Veronika Kudermetova, with Kudermetova about justified as the 1.774/5 favourite to make round two. In advance of the draw, I thought both players could be potential long-shots to make the latter stages, but of course now one of them will be eliminated tonight.

In my view, there's not an abundance of value on today's card - certainly not much to get hugely enthused about. Year-long numbers quite like Danka Kovinic at 2.0811/10 versus wild card Clara Burel but she's lost four of her last five and has struggled in Europe of late after some strong showings back to back in Charleston in April. Furthermore, Burel is on an upward ability curve, recently winning the Saint-Gaudens ITF event and reaching the final in the Oeiras ITF too, and with both events on clay she will be coming into today with a lot of wins on the surface in recent months.

Osaka with uninspiring clay form this year

If I had to pick a big name who might struggle today I would probably go with Naomi Osaka, who has lost two of her three matches on clay this year - both as a solid favourite - against Karolina Muchova and Jessica Pegula, and has uninspired on clay in her career so far compared to her achievements on other surfaces.

Opponent Patrica Maria Tig has decent clay pedigree, but comes into the match with three losses in her four clay matches this year so far - it will be fascinating to see how the serve-orientated Osaka deals with the much more return-orientated Tig in what is a match of very contrasting styles.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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