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Serena Williams may have announced her return to form by winning her first title in nine months at the Italian Open in Rome

Six women to watch at Roland Garros

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Originally published on 20/05/16 00:00

Here are some of the women who are in with a chance of lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on June 4.

Angelique Kerber

Best RG Result: Quarter-Finals 2012
2015 Result: Third Round
RG Record: 13-8

Best 2016 Clay Result: Winner Stuttgart
2016 Clay Record: 9-3
R1 opponent: Kiki Bertens

The biggest success story of 2016 so far has a great opportunity to follow up her Australian Open win with a triumph in Paris. She is comfortable on clay and, at 28, has so much experience to call upon at crucial points during matches. Kerber has a poor record at Roland Garros and has only got as far as the quarter-final on one occasion. However, back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and another clay-court title in Charleston in 2015 demonstrate her ability on the surface, and this could be the year to turn her fortunes around.

 

Victoria Azarenka

Best RG Result: Semi-Finals 2013
2015 Result: Third Round
RG Record: 21-8

Best 2016 Clay Result: Third Round Madrid
2016 Clay Record: 4-1
R1 opponent: Karin Knapp

Huge doubts remain over her ability to perform well on clay, and her recent retirement with back trouble in Madrid and poor showing in Rome certainly haven’t helped her cause. But she has enough ability to be considered a contender, and her boundless determination means she can never be discounted. For inspiration, Azarenka can look to her clay-court performances in 2015, when she had match points against Serena in Madrid and also took a set off her at Roland Garros. To win the French Open this year, she must first reach that standard again and then surpass it.

 

Serena Williams

Best RG Result: Champion 2002, 2013, 2015
2015 Result: Champion
RG Record: 54-11

Best 2016 Clay Result: Winner Rome
2016 Clay Record: 5-0
R1 opponent: Magdalena Rybarikova

If Serena plays her best tennis, she is the player most likely to win any tournament she enters. When her level drops, however, she can definitely be beaten, as her losses in four of her last five tournaments have shown. The world No.1 has lost to Roberta Vinci, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova. All four are very good players who produced superb performances to beat her, but in 2015 Serena probably would have won those matches regardless – as her 53-2 win-loss record before her loss to Vinci indicates. Is she still as good as she was?

 

Simona Halep

Best RG Result: Semi-Finals 2014
2015 Result: Second Round
RG Record: 8-6

Best 2016 Clay Result: Winner Madrid
2016 Clay Record: 7-3
R1 opponent: Nao Hibino

This talented Romanian has slipped to world No.6 after a poor year overall, but she returned to form in such fine style at the Madrid Open, dropping only one set on her way to winning the title, that she suddenly looks like a contender for big tournaments once again. And Roland Garros was the setting for arguably the highlight of her career so far, when she played terrific tennis in the 2014 final against Maria Sharapova but narrowly lost the match 4-6 7-6 4-6. The Russian described it afterwards as “the toughest Grand Slam final I’ve ever played”.

 

Garbine Muguruza

Best RG Result: Quarter-Finals 2014, 2015
2015 Result: Quarter-Finals
RG Record: 9-3

Best 2016 Clay Result: Semi-Finals Rome
2016 Clay Record: 7-3
R1 opponent: Anna Schmiedlova

No-one will want to draw Muguruza at Roland Garros because she has enough ability to beat anyone when she plays her best. The Spaniard’s powerful serve and huge groundstrokes enable her to hit through opponents on even the slowest surfaces, and she has a bit of variety to her game too, so she can certainly be effective on clay. And she has proved this in the past, shooting to prominence by thrashing Serena Williams 6-2 6-2 on her way to the French Open quarter-final in 2014, then backing it up by reaching the last eight again in 2015. Muguruza also found form at exactly the right time to reach the Italian Open semi-final last week, and could go all the way in Paris this time around.

 

Madison Keys

Best RG Result: Third Round 2015
2015 Result: Third Round
RG Record: 3-3

Best 2016 Clay Result: Runner-Up Rome
2016 Clay Record: 8-3
R1 opponent: Donna Vekic

After Serena Williams beat Madison Keys 7-6 6-3 in the Italian Open final, she said at the net: “You’re going to be No.1 for sure.” If the American, 21, can play high-quality tennis like she did all week in Rome more often, then she certainly has a chance of reaching such heights. Keys thrashed Andrea Petkovic and Petra Kvitova, then came through tough matches against Barbora Strycova and Muguruza, on her way to the final – and all on a surface she was unsure she could conquer. As she said after the tournament: “I made the final of a red-clay tournament. I can do this thing.” Keys remains an outsider for the French Open, but she showed in Rome she has the ability to win it.

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Serena Williams may have announced her return to form by winning her first title in nine months at the Italian Open in Rome
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