There may be five Roland Garros contenders, but even defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza thinks the list could be as long as 10 or 15, and who are we to argue with a former French Open winner?
With that in mind, check out the 10 women most likely to grab headlines in the City of Lights:
Kiki BERTENS (NED)
6th appearance (8-5)
Best result: Semifinals (2016)
Career winning percentage on clay: .632
Bertens is winding up for a little déjà vu heading into the French Open, winning her second straight Nürnberger Versicherungscup. The title caps off another stellar clay court season that saw her reach the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open Open quarterfinals the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinals. Feeling the pressure to defend last year’s surprise run to the final four, the mathematical burden is largely off the No.18 seed’s shoulders, and would be a likely favorite against former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki to get back into the second week.
Samantha STOSUR (AUS)
14th appearance (34-13)
Best result: Final (2010)
Career winning percentage on clay: .658
Speaking of last-minute title winners, Stosur booked her ticket to Paris after winning her second Internationaux de Strasbourg trophy in three years, holding off countrywoman Daria Gavrilova in the tight race for Aussie No.1 in the process. Stosur looked like a long shot to back up last year’s run to the semifinals - her fourth appearance at that stage - but dropping just one set en route to her ninth career title could turn things around as the No.23 seed lands in a section that features top seed Angelique Kerber, who is notoriously uncomfortable on clay.
Mirjana LUCIC-BARONI (CRO)
11th appearance (6-10)
Best result: Third round (2001, 2015)
Career winning percentage on clay: .535
A woman who needs little introduction, Lucic-Baroni has been more than just one of 2017’s feel good stories. The Croat has surged into the Top 20 for the first time in her 20-year career thanks to stunning results at the Australian Open and Miami Open, where she reached the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively. With a powerful game that translates to clay, she started off the spring with a run to the Volvo Car Open semifinal. Seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career at No.22, she could well better her previous best result - most recently in 2015, when she knocked out former finalist Simona Halep in straight sets.
Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE)
6th appearance (2-5)
Best result: Second round (2014, 2015)
Career winning percentage on clay: .491
It hardly seems right for the No.2 seed to go unmentioned through five contenders and three more darkhorses, but for all her natural talents, clay court movement is still not one of them. The Czech powerhouse is open about her struggles on the surface, though a bright spot appeared when she managed to outfox 2015 French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky en route to the quarterfinals in Rome. Should she get on a roll, she’s proven nigh unstoppable, and last year’s US Open runner-up will undoubtedly be eager to reach her third straight Grand Slam second week.
Anastasia PAVLYUCHENKOVA (RUS)
10th appearance (15-9)
Best result: Quarterfinals (2011)
Career winning percentage on clay: .525
Pavlyuchenkova may be Pliskova’s biggest hurdle, and the still-young Russian has certainly earned that distinction in what has been her most consistent season ever. Winning back-to-back titles in Monterrey and Rabat, she reached the Round of 16 in Rome, where she took out two confident clay courters in Stosur and Anastasija Sevastova before falling to Halep in three sets. The Russian was once two games from the semifinals against eventual runner-up Francesca Schiavone, and with new coach Simon Goffin at her side, the No.16 seed has a good chance to seal the deal this time around.
Venus WILLIAMS (USA)
20th appearance (45-19)
Best result: Final (2002)
Career winning percentage on clay: .743
Most players would be happy to have Venus Williams’ clay court credentials, but on her resume, they pale in comparison to her five triumphs at the All England Club. In the midst of a true career renaissance, the elder Williams sister roared into her first major final since 2009 at the Australian Open, and backed up the result with excellent results in Indian Wells and Miami. In her one red clay event of 2017, she outlasted Johanna Konta en route to the quarterfinals, and can definitely do some damage in Paris as the No.10 seed, potentially booking a rematch of last year’s fourth round with Bacsinszky.
Timea BACSINSZKY (SUI)
8th appearance (14-7)
Best result: Semifinals (2015)
Career winning percentage on clay: .592
Going back to Bacsinszky, the Swiss star was looking like a lock to reach a second straight French Open semifinal before stormy weather and an even stormier Kiki Bertens took care of the rest. Bacsinszky has struggled to back up last year’s consistency, but still proved herself to be plenty dangerous in Madrid, when she blew past home favorite Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets. In a section with a flagging Dominika Cibulkova, this could be where the No.30 seed gets her groove back, and finally gets that second Slam semifinal.
Johanna KONTA (GBR)
Third appearance (0-2)
Best result: First round (2015, 2016)
Career winning percentage on clay: .250
Konta’s clay court resume is one of the few remaining reminders of just how meteoric her 18-month rise has been. Coming to Paris with just three career main draw wins on clay, the Brit has only ever played 12 WTA main draws on the surface. This spring was her first real opportunity to reverse that trend after taking home her biggest career title at the Miami Open, but the No.7 seed had little luck with draws, running into Sevastova in Stuttgart, Laura Siegemund in Madrid, and Venus in Rome. Movement may still hinder the hardcourt dynamo, but has a workable draw through her first two matches, and for a player as optimistic as Konta, that means there’s still time to gain some experience on an as yet unfamiliar surface.
Anastasija SEVASTOVA (LAT)
5th appearance (1-4)
Best result: Second round (2016)
Career winning percentage on clay: .561
We’ve talked around her long enough, and it’s finally time to show some love to the self-proclaimed “D List Latvian celebrity.” In the midst of a flourishing second career, Sevastova has been criminally ignored through her best year yet. Reaching the quarterfinals or better in three of her four clay court events, her only losses on the surface have been to Siegemund, Halep, and Pavlyuchenkova. Into the Top 20 and seeded No.17, the 27-year-old lands in Elina Svitolina’s section, but would first have to get past a Madison Keys still working her way back from injury. Should Sevastova make her second major quarterfinal out of the last three, she’ll only get harder to ignore.
Carla SUÁREZ NAVARRO (ESP)
9th appearance (20-8)
Best result: Quarterfinals (2008, 2014)
Career winning percentage on clay: .680
As we edge closer to the 10 year anniversary of Suárez Navarro’s first major splash, when she reached the quarterfinals at this event as a qualifier, the Spaniard appears to be steadily improving after injuries derailed the start of her season. Closing in on the Top 5 just over a year ago, the veteran is lower than she’d like as the No.21 seed, but in a good section of the draw where she could get a rematch with No.14 seed Elena Vesnina - who she beat en route to the Stuttgart quarterfinals. Her major results have long mirrored Francesca Schiavone’s - that is, before the equally undersized Italian broke through in Paris - and with both Halep and No.26 seed Daria Kasatkina nursing ankle injuries, this could her chance to not only turn her season around, but also challenge for her first Grand Slam title.
Hear more about the French Open darkhorses in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast: