French Open Women's Outright Tips: A number of players worth watching in tonight's draw

Romanian Tennis Player Simona Halep
Simona Halep is the tournament favourite for the French Open...

With a competitive women's French Open in prospect, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, is back to give his thoughts on the players he is hoping will have a favourable draw tonight...

"After skipping the US hard court season to focus on winning here in Paris, Halep has played two clay events in Prague and Rome, lifting the trophy in both."

Competitive women's tournament anticipated

The French Open draw begins at 17:00 UK time and unlike the men's competition, which features Rafa Nadal just a shade above odds-on, and Novak Djokovic also priced below 3/14.0, the women's tournament looks far more competitive.

I've said in many Grand Slam previews that, going into the tournament, there are usually 20-30 women who will feel they have a justifiable chance of tournament success, and there isn't much to dissuade me that this is again the case here across the coming fortnight.

Favourite Halep the form player going into the event

Simona Halep is the tournament favourite, currently available at 4.10 on the Exchange, and the Romanian ranks second for combined service/return points won on clay in the last 18 months, at a shade over 110%. Only one player - Serena Williams - can eclipse this, and there's a little more uncertainty about her expected level than Halep's.

After skipping the US hard court season to focus on winning here in Paris, Halep has played two clay events in Prague and Rome, lifting the trophy in both. She didn't have it all her own way in quick conditions in the Czech Republic, dropping a couple of sets early on in the tournament, but the world number two will go into the French Open as the form player on the surface.

Question marks surrounding Serena's current level

It is difficult to have the same confidence about Serena. She had two losses as favourite in the US Open warm-up events in Lexington and at the Western & Southern Open, and dropped a set in all of her three wins in those tournaments. This also was an issue at the US Open, dropping a set against all of Sloane Stephens, Maria Sakkari and Tsvetana Pironkova before losing in three to Victoria Azarenka.

Essentially, the old dominance doesn't seem to be there. I can remember Serena steamrollering opponents with extreme regularity, but this doesn't seem to be the case now. In those three hard court tournaments, she's running at just 104.2% combined and that sort of level is unlikely to get the job done at the French Open. It's perhaps unsurprising that the market is offering Williams at 15.5, but if she can recapture her previous best levels, it will make a mockery of that pricing.

Rybakina and Vondrousova among those worth keeping an eye on

Who else looks worth keeping an eye on in advance of the draw? I've summarised a few options here. It's also worth noting that all of Kiki Bertens, Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys are among those players carrying injury concerns into the competition.

Elena Rybakina 33/134.0 - the Kazakh looks the real deal on clay, running fourth for combined service/return points won on the surface across the last 18 months. She's perhaps benefited a little from not facing that many high quality opponents, but at 21 years of age has a lot of future upside as well. I just hope she doesn't overplay in Strasbourg this week.

Marketa Vondrousova 27/128.0 - Vondrousova had a tricky time of things post-lockdown but bounced back last week in Rome to reach the semi-finals. She retains very strong clay data and I think it's her best surface. It seems a long time ago now but don't forget she was runner-up here last year.

I also like a few players at bigger prices. Johanna Konta, at around 59/160.0, Dayana Yastremska 94/195.0, and Karolina Muchova 149/1150.0 are also ones I'm keeping an eye on in the draw. All have better medium-term clay data than a number of players priced shorter than them in the outright market, so there's plenty to watch as the draw unfolds later this evening in Paris.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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