French Open 2018: 10 players to watch in Paris

Vicki Hodges
Sharapova, Zverev, Svitolina and Thiem are just four players to keep a close eye on at the French Open

The French Open gets under way on Sunday, with the top seeds Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep much fancied by the bookies to get their hands on the silverware.

Away from the favourites, here are 10 other players who are worth following over the next fortnight.

Vicki Hodges' five women to watch

Maria Sharapova

Age: 31

Nationality: Russian

World ranking: 29

French Open best: Winner (2012, 2014)

Titles: 36 tour titles, 5 slams

Over a year since returning from a drugs ban, the former world No 1 has finally hit form ahead of her most successful major. 

Now back in the world top 30, Sharapova arrives in Paris on the back of a last-eight run in Madrid and semi-final spot in Rome with a point to prove to French Open organisers who denied her a wildcard invitation last year.

Sharapova has returned to the world top 30 for the first time since serving her drugs ban Credit: Reuters

Petra Kvitova

Age:28

Nationality: Czech 

World ranking: 8

French Open best: Semi-final (2012)

Titles: 24 tour titles, 2 slams

The left-hander has won four WTA titles this year, including back-to-back trophies this month in Madrid and Prague.

Kvitova’s fierce determination and experience make her a strong contender in Paris, where she should be refreshed after skipping Rome. 

Kvitova has established herself as a stable of the women’s top 10 again just 17 months after a knife attack at her home almost ended her career. 

Kvitova beat Bertens to win the Madrid Open Credit: Getty Images

Jelena Ostapenko

Age:20

Nationality: Latvian

World ranking: 5

French Open best: Winner (2017)

Titles: 2 tour titles, 1 slam

The Latvian broke records 12 months ago, becoming the first player to win Roland Garros from a set down since 1991 and the first unseeded woman to win in Paris since 1933. 

Ostapenko’s fearless style of tennis is a joy to watch when in full flow. She has since added a mental strength to her game which ensures she does not fade away in rounds that succeed big-match victories.

Jelena Ostapenko was unseeded when she won in Paris last year Credit: AP

Elina Svitolina

Age:23

Nationality: Ukrainian

World ranking: 4

French Open best: Quarter-final (2015, 2017)

Titles: 12 tour titles, 0 slams

Thrashed world No 1 Simona Halep to retain the Italian Open last weekend for her third WTA title of the year, Svitolina needs to transfer that success into the majors.

The Ukrainian has never been past the last eight of a grand slam, but has a decent record in Paris, reaching the quarters twice in the last three years.

Elina Svitolina saw off Simona Halep to win the Italian Open  Credit: Getty Images

Kiki Bertens

Age:26

Nationality: Dutch

World ranking: 18

French Open best: Semi-final (2016)

Titles: Five tour titles, 0 slams

A dark horse for Paris, the right-hander defeated Caroline Wozniacki, Sharapova and world No 7 Caroline Garcia to reach the Madrid final. 

Inside the world top 20, Bertens, from Holland, has a ferocious forehand and tremendous variety which makes her a dangerous opponent on clay.

Bertens pushed Serena Williams in her sole semi-final appearance at a major two years ago when then ranked world No 58.

Kiki Bertens reached the semi-finals of the French Open two years ago Credit: Getty Images

Charlie Eccleshare's five men to watch

Alexander Zverev

Age: 21

French Open best: Third round (2016)

Nationality: German 

World ranking: 3

Titles: 8 tour titles, 0 slams

With three Masters titles to his name, 'Sascha' is making good on the promise that has long-since marked him out as a future world No 1. 

At the grand slams however, Zverev has yet to even reach a quarter-final.  

A brilliant clay-court season - including winning the Madrid title and reaching the Italian Open final - suggests the youngster could be ready to make his slam breakthrough in Paris. 

Dominic Thiem

Age: 24

French Open best: Semi-final (2017)

Nationality: Austrian

World ranking: 8

Titles: 9 tour titles, 0 slams

The only man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay last year, and the only one to do so in 2018 thus far underlines Thiem's potential on the surface.

Thiem also thumped reigning champion Novak Djokovic to reach the French Open semis last year, and his penetrating serve and heavy-topspin backhand will make him a threat in Paris. 

Soderling interview

Kyle Edmund

Age:23

French Open best: Third round (2017)

Nationality: British

World ranking: 17

Titles: 0 tour titles, 0 slams

After reaching the Marrakesh final and then taking out David Goffin and Novak Djokovic in Madrid, Edmund confirmed his status as a French Open dark horse. 

Standing at a career-high ranking of No 17, Edmund is brimming with confidence and will look to build on reaching the Australian Open semi-final in January. 

Boasting arguably the biggest forehand in men's tennis, Edmund has the game to go deep at Roland Garros. 

 Kyle Edmund is in very good form Credit: Getty Images

David Goffin

Age:27

French Open best: Quarter-finalist (2016)

Nationality: Belgian

World ranking: 9

Titles: 4 tour titles, 0 slams

Assuming he's shaken off his unfortunate recent eye injury, Goffin has the class and imagination to go better than his run to the quarter-finals two years ago. 

The fizzed double-handed backhand is Goffin's main weapon, but his variety and touch makes him particularly dangerous on clay. Standing at 5ft 11in, the relatively diminutive Goffin consistently punches above his weight. 

Novak Djokovic

Age:31

French Open best: Winner (2016)

Nationality: Serbian

World ranking: 22

Titles: 68 tour titles, 12 slams

After a miserable couple of years, Djokovic looks finally to be rediscovering something like his best form. 

He is still a way short of his unbeatable peak, but against Rafael Nadal in Rome last week there were glimpses that the old Djokovic could be about to make a comeback. His ranking of No 22 will mean a tougher path to the final, but realistically almost all the higher ranked players will be desperate to avoid playing him.