Unseeded women to look out for in Paris

A scattering of names beyond the top 32 will garner interest when the draw is made on Thursday

Naomi Osaka, first round, Rome Masters 2024©Rob Prange
 - Dan Imhoff

In a women’s event dominated by talk of the in-form Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, keen-eyed pundits and players alike will pay extra attention to where a select group of women outside the seedings fall in the draw.

These players – be they proven champions or rising talents – have the potential to spice up the opening round.

Naomi Osaka: world No.134

Roland-Garros marks former world No.1 Naomi Osaka’s 10th event since returning from maternity leave as she continues her push to add to her haul of four majors.

While her best in the past typically came on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows and Melbourne Park, last week the Japanese 26-year-old scored her first two career top-20 wins on clay over Marta Kostyuk and Daria Kasatkina before Zheng Qinwen stopped her in the fourth round in Rome.

“I think the steady progression is something that I’m very confident about,” she warned.

Leylah Fernandez: world No.33

Crafty hands, great anticipation and a loopy, lefty forehand bode well for clay and 21-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez ticks all three boxes.

The shock 2021 US Open finalist beat seeds Belinda Bencic and Amanda Anisimova to reach the quarter-finals in Paris two years ago and looms as the likely unluckiest highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw. Fernandez also teamed up with Taylor Townsend to reach the doubles final a year ago.

Leylah Fernandez, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Katerina Siniakova: world No.34

Czech Katerina Siniakova is no stranger to Roland-Garros trophies with a pair from the women’s doubles events of 2018 and 2021 in the bag.

A former No.1 in doubles, the 28-year-old is no slouch in singles either, sitting just outside the seedings at RG 2024.

Siniakova stunned then No.1 Osaka to reach the fourth round in Paris five years ago and remained undaunted at the prospect of competing on the biggest arenas.

Sloane Stephens: world No.35

In the space of eight months, Sloane Stephens came within a set of holding two of the four majors when she opened up a one-set lead over Simona Halep in the 2018 final on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

While the 2017 US Open champion came up just short in that Roland-Garros decider it has become her most consistent Slam, having reached the second week in Paris nine times including two further quarter-finals.

Only last month, the 31-year-old captured her first title in more than two years on the clay at Rouen in France.

Mirra Andreeva: world No.38

One of the most endearing stories to emerge from qualifying and all the way to the third round of Roland-Garros last year was that of teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva.

In her Grand Slam main draw debut, the then 16-year-old quickly built a cult following with her tenacity on court and charming interviews off it.

Earlier this month she reached her first WTA 1000 quarter-final in Madrid. The ascent is only gathering momentum.

Sofia Kenin: world No.54

Similar to fellow American Stephens, heavy-striking Sofia Kenin came within a match of becoming a two-time major champion in eight months in 2020 before she bowed to Iga Swiatek in the final of a pandemic-delayed Roland-Garros.

Following form and injury struggles, the 25-year-old returns to the main draw for the first time since 2021 with wins over the likes of world No.9 Ons Jabeur on clay in Rome as recently as a fortnight ago.

Sofia Kenin, Roland Garros 2021, second round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Diana Shnaider: world No.47

Another former US college player, bandana-wearing 20-year-old Diana Shnaider won a WTA 125k in Paris on Sunday, beating top 30 player Emma Navarro in the final.

A week before, she beat Liudmila Samsonova for her third top 20 win to reach the third round in Rome. With seven wins from her past eight matches on clay she is one the seeds will want to avoid early.

Mayar Sherif: world No.66

Egypt’s sole representative in the top 500, Mayar Sherif has come into her own during the clay-court swing each year since making history as the first woman from her nation to contest a Grand Slam main draw at RG 2020.

The 28-year-old notched her first WTA 1000 quarter-final on clay in Madrid last season and has reached the second round in Paris for the past two years.

On the red clay this year Sherif has runner-up showings at a WTA 125 event in Lleda and the WTA 250 event in Parma.

Peyton Stearns: world No.83

A former NCAA champion for the Texas Longhorns, 22-year-old Peyton Stearns names fellow American Danielle Collins as her inspiration for making the switch from college tennis to the professional ranks.

Last year she made a first final on clay in Bogota to crack the top 100 and took down former champion Jelena Ostapenko en route to the third round in Paris on debut.

Martina Trevisan: world No.91

If there is one tournament that brings out the best in left-handed late-bloomer Martina Trevisan it is Roland-Garros.

After winning through qualifying to make her debut in 2020, the Italian beat Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari and Kiki Bertens before she bowed to eventual champion Swiatek in the quarter-finals.

No flash in the pan, she went one further two years later before Gauff avenged defeat in the semi-finals.

Alize Cornet: world No.107

In April, France’s gritty former world No.11 Alize Cornet announced she would bid farewell following her 20th straight main draw appearance in Paris this year.

At her toughest as the underdog, Cornet loves a scrap. She channelled her home crowd as recently as two years ago to stun Ostapenko under lights, while a decade ago, she famously toppled No.1 seed Serena Williams in the third round at Wimbledon.

Alizé Cornet, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Philippe Montigny / FFT