1 – Will Maria Sharapova’s return of serve be ready to meet the challenge in Paris?
Sharapova plays a hit-or-miss style of tennis these days, trying to strike quickly and accept a lot of errors in exchange for even more winners. She could meet Karolina Pliskova in round three, Serena Williams in round four, and Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals. Serena might not make the fourth round given her level of match fitness, but the point still remains that Sharapova could face a cluster of formidable servers who hit big and will not sit back. Sharapova will need to get on top of points and make an accurate first strike instead of handing an opponent a cheap point. This draw heightens the centrality of her return of serve.
2 – Who will emerge from Serena’s first-week subsection (aka, the first three rounds) and Muguruza’s section (a section being defined as a group of 16, encompassing the first four rounds)?
If you look at the draw as it was presented by Roland Garros on Thursday evening, in the above link offered by Reem Abulleil, you will see that each player has a number. One side of the draw, the first half, contains player numbers 1-64, while the other side/half contains players numbered 65-128. Of all the sections in the draw, none is more fascinating than the 49-64 section containing Serena, Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova. Everyone is buzzing about that part of the draw and who will make the quarterfinals.
However, don’t forget about the 33-48 section just above it. The player who gets through that section could face a very tired Sharapova/Serena/Pliskova and benefit from comparatively less strain. With Muguruza struggling and CoCo Vandeweghe, the other seeded player in the 33-48 section, being erratic as a way of life, this is a great opportunity for someone to come out of nowhere and make a run. Hello, Samantha Stosur (former Roland Garros finalist) and Belinda Bencic.
3 – Did Victoria Azarenka learn what she needed to learn from her blowout loss to Naomi Osaka in Rome?
If she did, she can beat Jelena Ostapenko in a possible second-round match. If that Osaka loss showed how disorganized Azarenka understandably is, as she deals with so many continued complications in her personal life, it becomes harder to envision a shakeup in that section. If Ostapenko can get by Azarenka, she has a reasonably manageable path to the quarterfinals.
4 – Are Kiki Bertens and Caroline Garcia ready for new levels of pressure?
The two players who emerge as natural threats in Simona Halep’s quarter are the two women who met in the Madrid semifinals. Bertens has the better clay game, but Garcia can ride the wave of the French crowd — it is something most French players fail to do at Roland Garros when they have a real chance to make a run, but perhaps Garcia can look to last year’s quarterfinalist, Kristina Mladenovic, as a helpful example of a player who used pressure and adrenaline to her benefit. If Bertens or Garcia can make it to the quarters — which might require both players to beat Angelique Kerber — Halep’s Roland Garros chances might hinge on whether Bertens or Garcia play at their best.
5 – Is this Elina Svitolina’s or Simona Halep’s time?
The WTA is so deep that when the quarterfinals arrive, every major title contender can expect to face tough tests. The bracket might dissolve and create a few fortunate twists, but on paper, the quarters and semis should be very tough matchups for all the top contenders. There are no cakewalk draws. That said, Halep and Svitolina both avoided Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams in the first week of the tournament. They can’t complain about their draws. They have met in the last two Rome finals. They staged a memorable Roland Garros quarterfinal last year. If they make the final this year, they will once again create a WTA major final in which the winner is guaranteed to be a first-time major champion.
Can they win six matches from their sides of the draw and create more history in 2018? We gonna see, no?