WTA Edition: Top Clay Court Contenders

With the absence of recent French Open champs Serena Williams (2013, 2015) and Maria Sharapova (2012 & 2014), and defending champ Garbiñe Muguruza’s inconsistent results, the tournament is anybody’s for the taking. Players have been trying all season to capitalize on the lack of dominance, especially on clay. So I have ranked which players lead the field going into the French Open. These rankings are based solely on results throughout the clay season.

The Contenders:

5. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

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Ranking: 17

YTD Record: 21-9 (70%)

Claycourt Record: 7-2 (78%)

2016 Result at FO: 3rd Round

Best Result at FO: QF (2011)

Why: The Russian powerhouse has been very consistent throughout 2017. Pavlyuchenkova made the quarterfinals in Australia and Indian Wells losing to the eventual finalist both times. She has captured titles in Monterrey, defeating Kerber en route, and Rabat, a clay court tournament. Her clay court record may not be as convincing this year, but the French Open is Pavlyuchenkova’s best Grand Slam as she owns a winning percentage of 63%. She is known to make deep runs at tennis’ biggest events and I believe this year at the French Open will be no different.

Prediction: Quarterfinals.

Best Match: Pavlyuchenkova vs. Schiavone, Rabat Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em3z7-8dzrA

4. Laura Siegemund (GER)

Laura_Siegemund_(Ger)_(21426428435)

Ranking: 32

YTD Record: 12-11 (52%)

Claycourt Record: 11-3 (79%)

2016 Result at FO: 1st Round

Best Result at FO: 1st Round (2016)

Why: Over the course of the clay court season, Laura Siegemund showed everyone why she is a force to be reckoned with. After the Miami Open, the German took to Volvo Car Open in Charleston, where she reached the semifinals by outlasting a fatigued Venus Williams and 2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova. Things got even better for Siegemund when she played in front of her home crowd at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany. She defeated 2009 French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year’s U.S. Open finalist and world #2 Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, and Kristina Mladenovic to win the title. The key for Siegemund in Paris will be to play the brave, unnerving tennis that propelled her to such success over the past few weeks. She is certainly a name nobody wants to see early in the tournament

Prediction: 4th Round

Best Match: Siegemund vs. Mladenovic, Stuttgart Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrLHQdopw6s

3. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Kristina_Mladenovic_(13048522894)

Ranking: 14

YTD Record: 27-10 (73%)

Claycourt Record: 11-3 (79%)

2016 Result at FO: 3rd Round

Best Result at FO: 3rd Round (2014-16)

Why: Kristina Mladenovic has been dangerous player throughout the entire season. She defeated Venus Williams in straight sets en route to her first career title at the premier-level tournament in St. Petersburg. She followed that result with a finals appearance in Acapulco and semifinal appearance at Indian Wells, defeating top players Halep and Wozniacki. In April, Mladenovic dispatched world #1 Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova to reach the finals of the Porsche Grand Prix. In Madrid, she powered through the draw to reach the finals falling short once again. These superb results throughout the season have put Mladenovic into the top 20 for the first time in her career. She should be able to finally get past the third round make a deep run in front of her home-crowd.

Prediction: Semifinals

Best Match: Mladenovic vs. Sharapova, Stuttgart SF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nIwo56rxN8

2. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

Elina_Svitolina_(17969398094)

Ranking: 6

YTD Record: 33-7 (83%)

Claycourt Record: 11-2 (85%)

2016 Result at FO: 4th Round

Best Result at FO: Quarterfinals in 2015

Why: The 22-year-old Ukrainian has made a number of leaps and bounds this season. She has more match wins than any other player this season, 33, and has already bagged 4 titles. In February, Svitolina won the Taipei Open cruising past her opposition to win her first title of the season. She then won her next tournament in Dubai, accumulating a 15 match win streak. Toward the end of April, Svitolina dropped just one set en route to winning her third title at the Istanbul Cup. Last week, Svitolina defeated three top ten players (Pliskova, Muguruza, and Halep) to capture her biggest title in Rome. If the Ukrainian can keep her emotions in check, she could possibly reach her first Grand Slam final.

Prediction: Finals

Best Match: Svitolina vs. Halep, Rome Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQu7fnJZ_Ro

1. Simona Halep (ROU)

Halep_MA14_(11)_(14403024996)

Ranking: 4

YTD Record: 19-7 (73%)

YTD Claycourt Record: 13-2 (87%)

2016 Result at FO: 4th Round

Best Result at FO: Finals (2014)

Why: At the beginning of 2017 things weren’t looking too good for Simona Halep. Fast forward to today and she has used the clay to return to the form that helped her reach the French Open final in 2014. Using a lethal combination of her passion, power, and persistence Halep outplayed her competition to win the title in Madrid over France’s Kristina Mladenovic. She carried that momentum into Rome the following week all the way to the final where she fell to Elina Svitolina. Although Halep did sustain an injury during the final, she should recover in time for the French Open by the end of the month. If she is healthy and doesn’t succumb to her nerves, Halep should go far.

Prediction: Semifinals

Best Match: Halep vs. Mladenovic, Madrid Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO-MP4wk5hU&t=10s

Dark Horses:

Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

Sevastova_RG16_(28)_(26795953073)

Ranking: 18

YTD Record: 16-12 (57%)

YTD Claycourt Record: 9-4 (70%)

YTD Best Results on Clay: SF in Madrid (def Pliskova), QF in Stuttgart (def Konta) & Charleston

2016 Result at FO: 2nd Round

Best Result at FO: 2nd Round (2016)

Anett Kontaveit (EST)

Anett_Kontaveit_(19144689161)

Ranking: 52

YTD Record: 29-9 (76%)

Claycourt Record: 11-4 (73%)

YTD Best Results on Clay: QF in Rome (beat Kerber) & Stuttgart (beat Muguruza)

2016 Result at FO: 1st Round

Best Result at FO: 1st Round (2016)

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Ostapenko_US16_(35)_(29235635604)

Ranking: 45

YTD Record: 22-11 (67%)

YTD Claycourt Record: 14-4 (78%)

YTD Best Results on Clay: Finals in Charleston (def. Wozniacki), SF in Prague (def. Wozniacki)

2016 Result at FO: 1st Round

Best Result at FO: 1st Round (2016)

Mona Barthel (GER)

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Ranking: 47

YTD Record: 27-10 (73%)

YTD Claycourt Record: 12-1 (92%)

YTD Best Results on Clay: Won in Prague

2016 Result at FO: 1st Round

Best Result at FO: 3rd Round (2014)

Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

Francesca Schiavone

Ranking: 76

YTD Record: 15-11 (58%)

YTD Claycourt Record: 9-2 (82%)

YTD Best Results on Clay: Won in Bogota, Finals in Rabat

2016 Result at FO: 1st Round

Best Result at FO: Champion (2010)

Although tennis is oh so unpredictable, these players have been the most consistent throughout the clay season. Who else do you think we should keep an eye on at the French Open? Who do you think will win? Comment below!

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