Who's the New Women's Favorite at the 2014 French Open?

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2014

Another round at Roland Garros and another top-seeded woman falters. This time it was No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska. Top-seeded Serena Williams went out in the second round, and No. 2 Li Na lost in the first round. 

For the first time in the history of the Open era, at a Grand Slam, none of the top three women's seeds will make it through to the fourth round.

Such a void leaves an opening for those remaining in the tournament. But who will take advantage of this colossal collapse at the top? 

Beyond Maria Sharapova, winner of the 2012 French Open, there are no clear favorites. The contenders with the best chance of taking the title fall into one of three categories: Front-runners, dangerous sleepers or up-and-comers.  

 

The Front-Runners

Just five of the WTA Tour's Top 10 players remain in the tournament. They include No. 4 Simona Halep, No. 8 Sharapova, No. 7 Jelena Jankovic, No. 6 Petra Kvitova and No. 9 Angelique Kerber. 

Halep wasn't even ranked in the Top 50 at last year's French Open. Now she's got a real shot at winning her first Slam. Halep took a set off Sharapova in the finals in Madrid. With her speed, shot selection and counterpunching, Halep could cause real fits for the heavy hitters. 

Sharapova came into Roland Garros with the best record on clay. In fact, if you take away her three losses to Williams, Sharapova has suffered just one loss on clay in the last two years. She looked impressive in a 6-0, 6-0 rout of No. 75 Paula Ormaechea.

Standing in Sharapova's way is Samantha Stosur, a finalist at the 2010 French Open and doubles winner in 2006. Sometimes erratic, Stosur certainly has the power and pedigree to win at Roland Garros. She moves and volleys well. She also has a big kick-serve to count on. What she lacks is nerve. Stosur sometimes inexplicably caves in big matches.  

Jankovic was a semifinalist in 2007, 2008 and 2010. The 29-year-old is experiencing a resurgence in her career. She reached No. 1 in 2008. However, in 2012 she finished the year outside of the Top 20 for the first time in five years. 

Kerber, although a solid performer, may need the draw to open up a little bit more before she can become a favorite. Besides an appearance in the quarterfinals in 2012, nothing in Kerber's history points to a win at Roland Garros. 

The same holds true for Kvitova, who next faces 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. Not known for her clay-court prowess, Kvitova still poses a threat to anyone in her path. Kuznetsova, a whiz on clay, might be the toughest opponent standing between Kvitova and the title. 

 

The Dangerous Sleepers

A few dangerous sleepers remain in the tournament, including Carla Suarez Navarro, Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic and Kuznetsova.

Suarez Navarro, who took out American teen Taylor Townsend in straight sets, is one of a handful of clay-court specialists left in the field. Suarez Navarro also has perhaps the most wicked one-handed backhand since Justine Henin. Unlike Sara Errani, another clay-court specialist, Suarez Navarro has a decent serve

Ivanovic, winner of the 2008 French Open, beat Sharapova in Rome. With all the buzz about newcomers and upsets, Ivanovic, despite her star power, is flying slightly below the radar. 

So is the hard-hitting Petkovic, who is finally back to her pre-injury form. Fast and powerful, Petkovic seems to get better with each tournament. Could she be peaking at just the right time? 

Perhaps the most dangerous is Kuznetsova. The Russian grew up and trained in Spain, and swings her forehand like Rafael Nadal. However, Kuznetsova lacks Nadal's consistency and focus. Still, she has the tools to outplay anyone in the Top 10.  

 

The Up-and-Comers

The top three seeds were each taken out by a player born in 1993. These include Garbine Muguruza, Kristina Mladenovic and Ajla Tomljanovic. Joining them in the up-and-comers is Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, born in 1994. All of these women pack power from both wings.

Bouchard, ranked No. 16, won her first WTA title, on clay, in Nuremberg last week. 

Muguruza, the hard-hitting Spaniard, stunned top-ranked Williams. She followed that upset with a straight-sets win over Anna Schmiedlova, who took out Venus Williams

Tomljanovic took out No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets, 6-4. 6-4. It's the first time the 21-year-old has moved into the fourth round of any Grand Slam and her first victory against a Top 10 player. 

American Sloane Stephens has been considered an up-and-comer for a few years now, yet, she's never won a WTA title or even been to a final.

Of the up-and-comers, Bouchard has the momentum, but Muguruza has the biggest weapons. 

Overall, Sharapova edges all remaining players in terms of clay-court record and recent success at the French Open. She made it to the finals two years in a row. The only two women to beat her on clay in the past two years are both French Open champions. With one of them already out of the way, this French Open is Sharapova's to lose. 

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