Women's draw: Key showdowns

 - Dan Imhoff

Top seed Osaka faces arguably toughest path to winning third straight major title.

The Roland-Garros 2019 women's singles draw was revealed on Thursday night.

Here are some of the most notable takeaways from what is poised as an unmissable fortnight of women's tennis in Paris.

R1 blockbuster: Ostapenko v Azarenka

It is only two years since Latvian Jelena Ostapenko rang in her 20th birthday in style, springing one of the greatest Grand Slam final upsets to deny Simona Halep and win her first major title at Roland-Garros. The hyper-aggressive Latvian has struggled to back up that run since, battling form and confidence woes to slump to a ranking of world No.40.

If she is to turn her season around in Paris she will need to be on from the get-go given her first-round opponent is former world No.1 and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka is slowly showing signs of regaining her fearless winning ways with recent quarter-final runs on clay in Stuttgart and Rome, where she claimed wins over the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina. The winner would likely meet top seed Naomi Osaka in the second round.

Toughest path

Proving her US Open triumph was no flash in the pan, Japanese star Osaka backed it up emphatically to triumph in this year’s Australian Open final. Now the 21-year-old will bid to complete the third leg in a non-calendar Grand Slam in Paris. But it won’t come easy.


Winning a heavily-hyped second-round showdown with Azarenka or Ostapenko would pit her against Greek No.29 seed and recent Rabat champion, Maria Sakkari, in the third round, with hope favourite Garcia or No.14 seed Keys in the fourth round. In the last eight she would look to either level a 1-2 record against No.8 seed Barty or repeat her US Open triumph over Williams, should the seeds progress accordingly.

Defending champion Simona Halep would likely await in the semi-finals. It is a player Osaka has beaten just once in five meetings.

Strongest quarter

The top quarter of the women’s draw boasts four Grand Slam champions with 28 major titles between them. Three-time champion Serena Williams owns 23 of those and will continue her quest to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record when she open opens against Russian Vitalia Diatchenko. The American could meet rising Canadian Bianca Andreescu in the third round before a possible rematch of last year’s second round against eighth-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty in the last 16.

Should world No.1 Osaka win her opening clash against Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, she would meet a Grand Slam champion from the winner of the aforementioned clash between Ostapenko and Azarenka.

Top-ranked Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, seeded No.24, US 14th seed Madison Keys and former semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic all lurk the top quarter.

Defending champion's route

After finally shaking her hoodoo to win a Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros last year, No.3 seed Halep will have her first taste of defending a major when she opens against Australian world No.47 Ajla Tomljanovic, a player she beat in three sets the only time the pair has met.

The Romanian could run into Chinese No.16 seed Qiang Wang or No.21 seed Daria Kasatkina in the fourth round before carrying a 4-1 record into a potential quarter-final clash with No.6 seed Petra Kvitova. Should she deny top seed Osaka for the fifth time in six meetings in the semi-finals she could take on No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova for back-to-back titles.

Simona Halep Roland Garros 2019© Cedric Lecocq / FFT

She owns a 7-4 ledger over the Czech.

“I played three finals here and in 2017 it was really tough to lose it,” Halep said at Thursday’s draw ceremony. “Last year, I had the best memory on court touching this trophy, finally.”

Notable head-to-head

Roland-Garros has long been earmarked as the site where Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina is most likely to make her Grand Slam breakthrough. But if the 24-year-old is to land her hands on the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen this year she will need to bounce back from a disastrous 0-2 record on the clay leading in and overcome seven-time major champion Venus Williams in the opening round to launch her campaign.

The pair has split two previous meetings with Williams winning their only prior clash on clay in Rome four years ago.

Unseeded dangers

Beyond Ostsapenko v Azarenka and world No.52 Venus Williams, a slew of unseeded women have the records to do some serious damage to their respective draws.

Czech 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova – the world No.38 – reached the final on clay in Istanbul last month and beat Halep for the second time this year en route to the Rome quarter-finals last week. She could run into No.5 seed Angelique Kerber in an all-leftie second round.

Now that the women's draw is unveiled, you can use this information to start creating your dream team in the Roland-Garros Fantasy Game!

Former world No.4 and 2009 Roland-Garros semi-finalist Dominika Cibulkova lies just outside the seedings as world No.35. She will look to defeat Belarusian No.11 seed Aryna Sabalenka for the first time in two meetings in the opening round.

Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic thrives on a rousing home reception and after stringing five straight wins on clay to reach the Rome quarter-finals last week, is rediscovering some of the form which carried her to the last eight at Roland-Garros two years ago.

She opens against compatriot Fiona Ferro in the opening round and could meet No.2 seed Pliskova in the third round.