By Jane Voigt
For the first time since the 1979 U. S. Open, none of the women in the quarterfinals of this year’s French Open are former Grand Slam Champions. That means a new star will rise in the City Of Lights come Saturday, June 10.
Here are the eight quarterfinalists: Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Wozniacki (No. 11), Kristina Mladenovic (No. 13), Timea Bacsinszky (No. 30), Elina Svitolina (No. 5), Simona Halep (No. 3), Caroline Garcia (No. 28), and Karolina Pliskova (No. 2)
Match-ups from the top section of the draw:
- Jelena Ostapenko versus Caroline Wozniacki
- Kristina Mladenovic versus Timea Bacsinszky
Match-ups from the bottom section of the draw:
- Elina Svitolina versus Simona Halep
- Caroline Garcia versus Karolina Pliskova
Taking a look at each woman increases the chances that none is an overwhelming favorite. However, Halep does stick out.
She was picked to win by many tennis pundits on day one, although she was unsure if she’d compete. She injured a ligament in her foot, during her loss to Svitolina in the finals of Rome last month. But, her doctor reassured her that the broken ligament ‘wasn’t one that mattered.’ Sounds a bit voodooish, but Halep’s performance up through her demolition of Carlo Suarez Navarro (No. 21) today, 6-1, 6-1, has reassured oddsmakers that the Romanian is still on track to win her first major. She has not dropped a set, either, and is the one who has come the closest to winning. She was the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014.
Five women have never played in the quarterfinal of Roland-Garros: Ostapenko, Pliskova, Garcia, Svitolina, Mladenovic. And, since two are from France and both landed on opposite sides of the draw, there is a chance for an all-French women’s singles final. The last French woman to win Roland-Garros was Mary Pierce in 2000.
Jelena Ostapenko — She is the outlier: nineteen, feisty, driven to win and surely excited as heck about what’s in front of her. This is only her second appearance in Paris and her 8th Grand Slam. Her chances of advancing to the semifinal are good. She has a 3-0 head-to-head record against Wozniacki, since last fall. The Latvian has also defeated Wozniacki twice this year on clay. Keeping her passion in check, at least a touch, will be her biggest concern.
Caroline Wozniacki — Wozniacki landed in the quarterfinals in Paris once, 2010. Her defensive game won’t work against Ostapenko unless weather makes for heavier conditions. She has begun to up her offensive strategy, pleasing Papa Piotr, her coach. “It’s a surface where it’s been very much up and down throughout my career,” she said, tennis.com reported. Caroline has the most career wins of all eight women: 25. She also has the most experience at the final stages of a major. She’s a two-time runner-up at the U. S. Open (2009, 2014).
Kristina Mladenovic — Tested early in the tournament by American Shelby Rogers, ‘Kiki’ is a sure French-fan favorite. Her record on clay this year is top-notch. She lost to Halep in the final of Madrid and to Laura Siegemund in the final of Stuttgart. The Frenchwoman has got to get her serve in order, though. Yesterday, when she upset defending champion, Garbine Muguruza, she hit 16 double faults. Kiki has electrified French fans each round, turning Stade Roland-Garros into a Fed Cup arena.
Timea Bacsinszky — Certainly the woman with the most variety in her game, Bacsinszky, eliminated the last remaining Grand Slam champion yesterday, Venus Williams. It was the second consecutive year Bacsinszky had beaten Venus in the fourth round. You’ll see Timea’s opponents target her forehand, which is markedly weaker than a smooth-as-silk backhand. Players frequently run around their backhand for inside out cross-court forehands, but she does just the opposite. And watch out for the drop shots. Three out of the last four points won against Williams were droppers.
Elina Svitolina — The fighter. She coined the phrase ‘Zvitolina Mode’ today in her post-match press conference, having come from 2-5 down in the third to qualifier and 290-ranked Petric Martic to pull off the victory. She won 20 out of 24 of the last points. “I was fighting to earn myself opportunities to hit a winner; I try to find myself in the zone,” she said, as reported on rolandgarros.com. The young Ukrainian has 8 career titles, four of which were won this year: Istanbul, Dubai, Rome, Taipei City.
Caroline Garcia — The 23-year-old French woman is no new-comer to the spotlight in Paris. She won the doubles championship last year alongside Mladenovic, before they split in March. However, Garcia’s singles game has often faltered from injury and inconsistency. Today, she eliminated countrywoman Alize Cornet, 6-2, 6-4. Extremely athletic and quiet off courts, but at the center of bickering amongst French women players, Garcia has every asset to push the highest ranked player left in the draw, Pliskova (No. 2), off balance and advance to the semifinal.
Karolina Pliskova — The six-foot-one U.S. Open runner-up would be the first one to tell you how much she dislikes red clay. Her movement is not an asset on other surfaces, so it can really hurt her on the slippery terre battue. After wracking up sub-par results at majors over the last couple years, though, Pliskova has flipped a switch. In addition to her run in New York, she was a quarterfinalist in Melbourne this year.
The fact that Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka aren’t here has created opportunities and excitement, as the list of 8 women shows. But if we turn back time just a few years, we’ll see that three of them were Junior Girls Champions at Roland-Garros: Svitolina, Halep and Mladenovic. Can that translate into a honest Grand Slam victory? Only time will tell.
Tomorrow at 8 a.m. EST, Mladenovic and Bacsinszky start the day on Philippe-Chatrier Court. At the same time, Ostapenko and Wozniacki will play on Suzanne-Lenglen Court. The other two matches are scheduled for Wednesday.