The French Open is upon us, and this Grand Slam is filled with interesting storylines as always. Read on to see which players are primed for success on the red clay of Roland Garros and which ones could be heading home early, as well as my pick for the title winner.
Karolina Pliskova - The first thing that comes to mind about Pliskova is her big serve, but she showed off the rest of her game en route to a title at the Premier 5 in Rome earlier this month. While she's still in search of her first Grand Slam title, Pliskova has reached the quarterfinals or better in seven of the last 10 slams, so the No. 2 seed here has the capabilities to finally go all the way.
Johanna Konta - Konta reached the final in Rome, defeating a pair of top-10 players along the way before ultimately falling to Pliskova. That strong result propelled the two-time Grand Slam semifinalist to 26th in the world, earning her a seed at Roland Garros. Konta's finally back on the upswing after an extended dip in form that knocked her down from the career-high No. 4 ranking she achieved in 2017.
Belinda Bencic - Bencic's career has already had a lot of ups and downs considering she's just 22 years of age. She burst onto the scene with a quarterfinal run at the 2014 US Open as a 17-year-old and reached a career-high ranking of No. 7 in 2016. Injuries struck after that, but Bencic has worked her way back to No. 15 in the world thanks to a 27-10 record this season. She's always had the talent to make deep runs, and the health and belief are both there for Bencic as well.
Naomi Osaka - Osaka brings an incredible 14-match Grand Slam winning streak into this tournament, but clay is a whole different beast from the hard courts on which Osaka won the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open. Her baseline-crowding power game doesn't translate as well to the slow dirt, which is why Osaka has never made it past the third round at the French Open. The 21-year-old also had to pull out of the Italian Open recently with a hand injury, adding further concern on top of the abdominal injury she battled earlier in the clay-court swing. As if all those red flags weren't enough, Osaka also has to deal with a difficult draw. Should she get past the first round, Osaka's second-round opponent would be either 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko or two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka.
Angelique Kerber - The fifth-seeded Kerber said she wasn't sure she could even play this tournament two weeks ago after suffering an ankle injury earlier this month. While she plans to tough it out, Kerber will likely be operating at much less than 100 percent, especially given her lack of preparation. A potential matchup with seven-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Carla Suarez Navarro looms in the third round, and Kerber will have trouble advancing past that point if she even gets that far.
Amanda Anisimova - The 17-year-old Anisimova made a name for herself at the Australian Open, knocking out a pair of seeded players in her run to the fourth round. Among the seeds she took out during that run was Aryna Sabalenka, and the two could meet again in the second round here. Anisimova has managed to capture her first WTA title since then, doing so on the clay courts of Bogota, Colombia in April. It's a matter of when Anisimova makes another breakthrough run at a major, not if.
Bianca Andreescu - 2019 seems to be the year of the breakout North American teenager, as the Canadian Andreescu has announced her presence even louder than the American Anisimova. Still just 18 years of age, Andreescu has already won two titles this season, including a Premier Mandatory at Indian Wells. A shoulder injury has kept Andreescu from participating in the clay-court season to date, and the No. 22 seed would face Serena Williams in the third round if both get there, but I'd be remiss not to mention Andreescu here despite the tough draw and lack of experience.
This pick will probably jinx Bencic into a first-round loss, but she's shown that she can beat anybody. With no clear favorite to take home the title on the women's side, Bencic is as good a bet as anyone given the immense confidence boost she's earned from her terrific play this season. This French Open could put an exclamation point on Bencic's bounce-back campaign, while Serena's always a threat to make a deep run, even on her worst surface.
FIRST ROUND UPSET WATCH
Svitolina comes into this one with injury concerns, as she hasn't been right since hurting her knee in Dubai in February and hasn't won a match on clay this season. While clay is Williams' worst surface, her veteran experience should give her more than a fighting chance should Svitolina prove unable to conjure up her A-game, or even B-game.