Martina Navratilova is best known for her success at Wimbledon. Nine of her career 18 Grand Slam singles titles came at the All England Club.

Yet, she was stellar on all surfaces. At Roland Garros, on the red clay that blunted her powerful game, it was, in terms of singles, her least fruitful major. Still, she won a total of 11 titles -- two in singles, seven in doubles and two in mixed doubles.

So when Navratilova says that clay is the “great equalizer,” she knows of what she speaks.

“I mean, you could have 15 different women win at Roland Garros this year,” she said recently. “Twice as many could do some damage in Madrid and Rome, too.”

For the record, eyeing the clay gauntlet that is Madrid, Rome and Paris, Navratilova, of course, loves Iga Swiatek’s chances, provided she is healthy. Navratilova is a big fan of Ons Jabeur’s diverse, creative game but wonders if she’ll be able to rise above a calf injury that forced her to retire from the Stuttgart semifinals. Don’t get her started on Maria Sakkari, a semifinalist at Roland Garros two years ago whose best surface, according to Navratilova, is the dirt.

Outside of the usual suspects, we also asked the esteemed Tennis Channel analyst to focus on under-the-radar players ranked outside the Top 15. Who does she see with the potential to create surprises in Madrid, Rome and Paris? Here’s a quarterfinal-plus worth of possibilities.

Martina Trevisan (No.20): Here’s another clay titlist from 2022. Trevisan won in Rabat, defeating two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza along the way, and rode that momentum all the way to the Roland Garros semifinals. “She’ll hurt you when you’re not playing your best tennis,” Navratilova said.

Jelena Ostapenko (No.22): Two days after her 20th birthday, the Latvian did the unthinkable. Ranked No.43 without a single match-win at Roland Garros coming in, she won the title. Ostapenko was the first unseeded woman to win the title since 1933 and the first player, man or woman, to win her first tour-level title at a major since Gustavo Kuerten. “You know what happened a few years ago,” Navratilova said. “It could happen again -- you never know with her.”

Donna Vekic (No.23): She defeated No.18-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova -- another seasoned player to watch this clay season -- in Stuttgart before falling to Karolina Pliskova in a third-set tiebreak. “Donna is coming along nicely, thanks to the coaching help of my old doubles partner Pam Shriver. Wow. It shows how quickly a player can come along with a good coach.”

Anastasia Potapova (No.25): A year ago, she came through qualifying to win the title in Istanbul, her first career championship at this level. The 2023 season looks like more of the same. Potapova, 22, defeated two Top 10 players in Stuttgart -- Coco Gauff and Caroline Garcia -- before falling to Sabalenka in the semifinals, the biggest of her career.

“She’s got a big game, big upset potential,” Navratilova. “I like her feistiness. She’s a fighter.”

Stuttgart: Potapova overcomes Garcia to reach first WTA 500 semifinal

Jil Teichmann (No.30): Only Swiatek and Jabeur accumulated more main-draw clay wins last year than the eight registered by Teichmann. The pride of Switzerland reached the Round of 16 in Istanbul, then the semifinals in Madrid and the quarterfinals in Rome. “Go, lefties,” said Navratilova, also a southpaw. “She’s sneaky good. Doesn’t have a massive weapon, but Jil’s a competitor and moves well.”

Irina-Camelia Begu (No.35): Here’s a surprising statistic for the 32-year-old from Romania. Of the players currently ranked among the Top 50, she has the third most career match-wins on clay, behind only Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, with 104. “Definitely a dark horse,” Navratilova said. “I wouldn’t want to see her in my part of the draw.”

Paula Badosa (No.42): A year ago, the Spanish player found herself at No.2 in the world, but the backside of 2022 didn’t go as well. Badosa has shown recent signs of a resurgence, though. She beat Top 10 player Daria Kasatkina in Stuttgart before losing in three tough sets to Sabalenka in the quarterfinals. “I think she has it in her,” Navratilova said, “to post some solid clay results.”


Anyone from the Czech Republic: We’ll disqualify 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova because she’s got her ranking back up to No.12, but … “She could very well end up holding a few trophies,” Navratilova said.

Consider No.52 Karolina Muchova, coming back from injury. And then there’s No.80 Marketa Vondrousova, a Roland Garros finalist in 2019. Factor in emerging Linda Noskova and the Fruhvirtova sisters, Linda and Brenda, and there are numerous options.

 “You look at all the Czechs and could easily pick them to do well,” Navratilova said. “We just don’t know which one.”