Serena avoids seed, Muguruza handed tough French Open draw

Published by Leigh Rogers

FOCUSED: Serena Williams practices in Paris under the watchful eye of coach Patrick Mouratoglou; Getty Images
A wide-open French Open 2018 women’s singles draw is set – and there’s some big first round clashes scheduled.

All eyes were on where former champion Serena Williams would fall when the Roland Garros draw was conducted – and the good news for the returning 23-time Grand Slam champion was that she avoided a first-round showdown with a seeded player. But two other former French Open champions were not so lucky.

World No.3 Garbine Muguruza, the French Open champion in 2016, was handed a brutal draw. She begins her campaign against the 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Kuznetsova, whose ranking has slipped to No.42 after missing the early parts of the season with a wrist injury, is a seven-time quarterfinalist in Paris and not lost in the first round since her main draw debut in 2003. But Muguruza does own a 5-1 win-loss record against the Russian, having won their past five meetings.

RELATED: Nadal avoids early trouble in French Open draw

Serena, currently ranked No.453 and competing as an unseeded player in a Grand Slam for the first time since she won the Australian Open in 2007 when ranked No.81, faces world No.70 Kristyna Pliskova in the opening round.

Yet as Serena prepares to play her first match on clay in two years, she will need to be wary of Pliskova, the twin sister of world No.6 Karolina. The left-handed Czech has beaten both Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens, the two most in-form players on clay, in the lead-up to the tournament.

Top seed Simona Halep begins her campaign against No.105-ranked American Alison Riske, while defending champion Jelena Ostapenko faces No.66-ranked Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova.

> View full French Open 2018 draw

Here’s our pick of some of the must-see first round matches:

(11) Julia Goerges (GER) v Dominika Cibulkova (SVK): Goerges is in career-best form but this is a tough first round assignment against world No.36-ranked Cibulkova, a former French Open semifinalist.

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v Katerina Siniakova (CZE): Former world No.1 Azarenka has avoided a seeded player in her opening round, but should she beat dangerous Czech Siniakova, she could face defending champion Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

(8) Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Veronica Cepede Royg (PAR): Kvitova arrives in Paris on an 11-match winning streak – but Cepede Royg reached the fourth round at Roland Garros last year, making her a challenging first opponent.

(2) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v Danielle Collins (USA): Collins’ swift rise up the ranks has been one of the stories of the season and the American could prove a difficult first round match-up for the reigning Australian Open champion.

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