The top half of the women's French Open draw includes the two favorites, No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty and No. 8 seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek. Those two could meet in the semifinals, which would mark a clash of the last two title winners in Paris.
Barty, fitting for the No. 1 seed, has been the best player in the world this season. The 25-year-old Australian has three titles so far in 2021, including one on clay in Stuttgart. A side effect of that hefty success so far this season for Barty is that she's a little banged up. The No. 1-ranked Aussie had to retire in her last match in Rome in mid-May with an arm injury, but she downplayed the severity of the issue at the time. That said, it will be worth keeping an eye on her health in her early rounds, as it could be the only thing to stop her from making a run to her second major title.
Swiatek lost to Barty 7-5, 6-4 in Madrid in her first tournament of the clay-court season, but she kicked things into high gear after that loss. The 19-year-old from Poland dominated the field in Rome en route to her third-career title. That title run culminated with an eye-opening 6-0, 6-0 win over Karolina Pliskova in the final. It mirrored her 2020 blitz to the Roland Garros title in which she didn't drop a single set and pounded Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in the final.
Muguruza won the title in 2016 and has another semifinal appearance in 2018. The 27-year-old Spaniard has one title this season and has been one of the most consistent players in the women's game thus far in 2021 with 23 victories under her belt already.
Svitolina is often a contender at the biggest events, with seven trips to at least the quarterfinals across various Grand Slams. The 26-year-old Ukrainian has reached the quarterfinals three times in Paris, which is her most at any slam. In the quarterfinals, she could face Barty, who she has already lost to twice in 2021.
The bottom half of the draw is looking more open, which could possibly result in a surprise player making a deep run. Last year's surprise semifinalist Nadia Podoroska lurks in the bottom half of the draw, and though she hasn't had a ton of success since that run, she did manage to defeat Serena Williams earlier in the clay-court season in Rome.
No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka is the favorite to come out of the bottom half and reach her first major final after she recently rolled to a Masters 1000 title in Madrid, defeating Barty in the final. The 23-year-old Belarusian has never advanced past Round 4 at any major, but she'll be expected to do so in Paris as the No. 3 seed.
No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka has never advanced past the third round at the French Open and clay might be the worst surface for her powerful game. The 23-year-old from Japan is the best-of-the-best in the women's game on hard courts, which she proved in winning her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year, but she's gone 1-2 in two tournaments on clay in 2021. Her section of the draw looks fairly tame, though she could run into a potentially dangerous opponent in No. 33 seed Paula Badosa in Round 3.
No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu has a strong 11-3 record so far in 2021, but she's battled numerous injuries and illnesses which has limited her play. The 20-year-old Canadian reached Round 2 in Paris in her lone previous appearance in 2019, but she could make a deep run this season, if healthy, as her section of the draw is favorable.
No. 8 seed Serena Williams can never be ruled out, but she's gone 1-2 in two clay-court events this season. Both losses came to players ranked outside of the top 40. The 39-year-old American hasn't advanced past the fourth round at Roland Garros since 2016, when she was the runner-up.
A dark horse candidate in the bottom half is Badosa, who has won 13 of her last 15 matches, including a title run in Belgrade on clay. The 23-year-old Spaniard has wins over Barty and Belinda Bencic on clay this season and reached Round 4 in Paris in 2020.
Round 1 matches to watch
This match could be the highlight of Round 1. The No. 10 seed won't be extremely pleased to have drawn last year's semifinalist so early because she could make a quick exit in Paris. Bencic is just 11-10 so far on the season, so it's not like she's brimming with confidence. The 24-year-old from Switzerland has never advanced past Round 3 at the French Open. Podoroska is 10-11 on the season herself and 4-2 on clay.
This mouth-watering matchup pits Kenin, last year's Roland Garros finalist, against the 2017 Roland Garros champion. The 22-year-old American has been bad in 2021, as she enters the French Open on a four-match losing streak and holds a 7-8 record on the year. While she certainly could make another deep run in Paris, this match has upset potential with Ostapenko winning their 2020 meeting in Fed Cup qualifying.
Pliskova reached her third-consecutive final in Rome in her last tournament, which was a good story, until she didn't win a single game in the final in an embarrassing loss to Swiatek. Despite her spot in the top 10 in the rankings, the 29-year-old Czech hasn't advanced past the fourth round of a major since 2019. She has a 3-1 head-to-head edge against Vekic, who hasn't played since the Australian Open due to a knee injury. Ranked No. 35, the 24-year-old Croatian is about as tough as a Round 1 matchup as is possible in terms of ranking.
Quarterfinals: Barty d. Svitolina, Swiatek d. Mertens, Sabalenka d. Kvitova, Badosa d. Andreescu
Semifinals: Barty d. Swiatek, Sabalenka d. Badosa
Final: Barty d. Sabalenka