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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Muguruza set to be the slow-court queen again

Vesnina may be the forgotten heroine at Roland Garros

Garbine Muguruza has the ability to retain her clay crown
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Humphries’s top tip
Garbine Muguruza 12-1
Garbine Muguruza danced her way to her first Grand Slam title when outplaying Serena Williams in the French Open final last year and while the Spaniard has it pretty tough for the defence of her crown, she’s arguably the best clay-courter in the world when it all comes together.

The layers will probably be out to get Muguruza in her first match against 2010 Roland Garros heroine Francesca Schiavone, who was shamefully overlooked for a wild-card entry in what would have been her last Italian Open earlier this month.

Schiavone is playing well, but while she could trouble the selection, Muguruza has the talent to come through that test and go on to greater things this week if producing her A-game.

Her run to the semi-finals in Rome should have given her the confidence boost she needed with the second Grand Slam of the year just around the corner and punters are getting a pretty good price about such a talented operator even without Serena Williams in the field.

Muguruza should also be able to handle the threat of French number one Kiki Mladenovic, who has improved a great deal this season, and the fourth seed also has the beating of Venus Williams on clay.

Simona Halep is probably the right favourite for Paris on what she has achieved this year, but the Romanian reportedly tore ankle ligaments in losing to Elina Svitolina in the Rome final a week ago and, having drifted from 3-1 to 11-2, only confirmed on Friday that she would be competing in Paris.

Other selections
Elena Vesnina 250-1
Yulia Putintseva 500-1
Elena Vesnina notched the biggest victory of her career in Indian Wells in March and it’s just possible that the Russian may have been forgotten at Roland Garros.

The Sochi ace has achieved on clay down the years, so is no back-marker in an open competition and if she can survive a couple of early rounds – something that she has struggled with in Slams – she could prove more of a force than many expect.

Vesnina is getting better with experience – she also made the semi-finals of Wimbledon last summer – and the 33-1 about her winning the third quarter can be considered, preference is to go for the jackpot at 250-1.

Two firms who were quoting Vesnina’s compatriot Yulia Putintseva at 500-1 have cut their generous offer and only BoyleSports were still promoting that price last night.

Putintseva seems comfortable on clay and having had a confidence-boosting run in Nuremberg last week without overdoing it, the Muscovite could be a handful in the third quarter and may even prove to be Muguruza’s toughest rival in their section.

Other notables
Marketa Vondrousova looks one of the brightest new players for some time and the Biel-Bienne champion has been introduced to the main-tour betting at double figures after sweeping aside the promising Anna Blinkova in the final round of qualifying.

Another qualifier at the other end of her career, Sara Errani, could also fare well, but the Italian is in the same eighth of the draw as Muguruza and Putintseva so is reluctantly passed over.

Also in the competitive second quarter is sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova, who could prove generous at 66-1 if returning to her best in the French capital.

There has been a run of money for Svetlana Kuznetsova to add to the French Open crown she won in 2009. That support could be well founded because few players have been as consistent as the St Petersburg ace this season. But outright prices only just in double figures does not exactly scream value.

G Muguruza
1pt 12-1 Hills, Sky Bet
E Vesnina
0.5pt each-way 250-1 Coral, Sky Bet
Y Putintseva
0.5pt each-way 500-1 BoyleSports

Schiavone is playing well, but while she could trouble the selection, Muguruza has the talent to come through that test and go on to greater things
E.W. Terms
Sky bet