Usually the focus of attention when a Grand Slam rolls around is the men’s side of the draw; particularly at the French Open, where so many subplots are ready to unfold. Will Novak Djokovic win his first Roland Garros title at the twelfth time of asking? Can Rafa Nadal return to the winner’s enclosure at a major tournament? Or will the ‘nappy factor’ propel Andy Murray to victory? Those are all intriguing propositions, but ignore the women’s side of the draw at your peril.
That is a fascinating prospect in itself, with the world number one and defending champion, Serena Williams, potentially looking vulnerable, with a whole host of competitors snapping at her heels. It should make for an enthralling fortnight on the clay.
The Reasons to Back Serena Williams
It would be foolish to write off Serena so light-heartedly, and it depends on your philosophy on what is value as to whether her price of 9/4 to win the tournament is backable.
One clay court tournament, one title….that’s how Serena’s resume reads in 2016. She remains a powerful presence on any given day, but the slow and stodgy clay found in France does not suit her natural game. She’s not a great mover, let’s be honest, and the severity of her all-conquering serve is lessened on this surface. There are opportunities for others in the French Open, as her win conversion rate of 3/14 testifies.
That being said though, where will Serena’s main competition come from? Just take a look at the head of the market: Viktoria Azarenka, a fine talent and no mistake, has reached a solitary semi-final at Roland Garros in a decade of trying. Angelique Kerber, the winner of the Australian Open in January, is naturally more suited to grass/hard courts. Simona Halep has won one tour title on clay in the last two years, and was knocked out of the French in the first round last year.
So, when you put it like that, why would you bet on anyone else but Serena, given that it is hard to make a case for any other player in the field. That is until we consider the claims of Garbine Muguruza.
Why You Should Back Muguruza
In three visits to Roland Garros, Muguruza has reached two quarter-finals; that’s not a bad record for a 22-year-old. Add in to the mix that the Spaniard was a beaten finalist at Wimbledon last year, and we find a player who clearly loves the big occasion.
Most notable of her trio of showings at the French was 2014, where she dumped out Serena in the first round in extraordinary fashion. And in the past few weeks alone on clay she has beaten Timea Bacsinszky, a semi-finalist here last year, and two former major winners in Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci.
She’s nimble, agile and can move around the court well, yet has the requisite power to manoeuvre her opponents around the court. Muguruza certainly offers the beast to go with her beauty. With that in mind, she looks a sound investment at 14/1 to go the distance at Roland Garros.