Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and others to watch in French Open draw

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The women’s French Open draw is as exciting as ever, with top stars like Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina gunning for a first major and veterans like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova looking to recapture their Grand Slam-winning form.

Here are some names to look out for over the next fortnight on the red dirt of Roland Garros.

Simona Halep (ROU x1)

The two-time runner-up has unfinished business in Paris, especially after last year’s final where she led by a set and a break before falling to an unseeded Jelena Ostapenko. Is currently one of the top players on clay and is definitely one to beat at Roland Garros.

Elina Svitolina (UKR x4)

Successfully defended her title in Rome last week and once again comes to Paris with lots of confidence. Looking to finally make it to a Slam semi-final for the first time after falling short on three previous occasions. Appears fitter than she’s ever been and is in the less loaded bottom half of the draw.

Caroline Garcia (FRA x7)

The home favourite made quarters in Paris last year and comes to the event this season as the No. 7 seed. Will have the crowd behind her and has a game that can take her all the way if she handles the pressure right.

Maria Sharapova (RUS x28)

The two-time champion snagged a seeding spot at the very last minute by reaching the quarters in Madrid and the semis in Rome this month. Appearing at the French Open for the first time since 2015, Sharapova’s successful history in Paris makes her one to watch this fortnight.

Serena Williams (USA)

Unseeded and ranked 453 in the world, Serena has played just four matches so far this season as she slowly returns from her maternity leave. Has a tough opener against Kristyna Pliskova and many eyes will be on her to see how far along she is in terms of finding her form this comeback. Has a tricky draw with No. 17 seed Ashleigh Barty, No. 11 seed Julia Goerges and Sharapova all potentially in her path.

Serena is 65-1 in Grand Slam first rounds with her sole opening defeat coming at the 2012 French Open to Virginie Razzano.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x5)

A year older and wiser, it will be interesting to see how Ostapenko handles being the defending champion at Roland Garros. The 20-year-old showed some decent form en route to the Rome last-eight and has landed in the same quarter of the draw as Svitolina. At stat to note here: There have been just 11 successful title defences at Roland Garros (post-1945) compared to 24 at Wimbledon, 22 at the US Open and 21 at the Australian Open.

Petra Kvitova (CZE x8)

Carrying an 11-match winning streak – on clay – heading into Paris, it’s crazy to think that this time last year, Kvitova was just making her return from a horrifying knife attack that nearly ended her career. Has won back-to-back titles in Prague and Madrid but is still unconvinced she has fully conquered the clay.

Kiki Bertens (NED x18)

The Dutchwoman is as close to a clay specialist as you can get on the women’s tour. On the dirt this season, Bertens won Charleston and was runner-up in Madrid. She is also a former French Open semi-finalist.

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