The 2014 WTA French Open will begin this weekend and with the injury news to Victoria Azarenka, the playing field is wide open. Don’t get me wrong, Serena Williams is still the overwhelming favorite, but there are plenty of women out there who have more than a fighting chance to win it all and make you a ton of money.
Let’s take a look at some of the dark horses on the women’s side. Click here to check out the men’s side, as well.
Maria Sharapova – Sharapova is considered the second biggest favorite since Victoria Azarenka withdrew due to an injury. You can get Sharapova at +400 at most places, which is still terrific value. Sharapova reached the French Open finals last season before losing to Serena Williams in straight sets. In fact, Sharapova has been horrible against Williams in her career, not beating her since 2004 in Los Angeles. However, Sharapova has won 81.13 percent of her matches at the French Open in her career and even won the title back in 2012. While the record against Williams is scary, Sharapova has to be the favorite against just about anyone else in the tournament and could provide a possible hedging opportunity if she runs into Williams in the finals.
Sloane Stephens – Often considered Williams’ clone, Stephens has an aggressive and powerful game just like the best player in the world. While Stephens can be wildly inconsistent due to her young age of 21-years-old, she has had success at the French Open, reaching the fourth round the last two years. Stephens has also proven she can beat Williams, Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. Stephens has the skill set to beat anybody on any given day, she just needs to experience and needs to learn to control her nerves at times. There’s no question Stephens is talented enough to win it all, which makes odds of +4000 tasty.
Na Li – Very few players are as consistent as Li, and very few are as underrated. Li not only won the French Open in 2011, but she also won this year’s Australian Open. Still, she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being one of the best women tennis players, winning close to 73 percent of her matches overall. At most books you can get Li at odds of +500, which are insane for somebody who is fresh off a Grand Slam victory and has split the last 10 matches against Sharapova. Li has lost her last six matches against Williams, but she’s a player who doesn’t beat herself and is always going to perform at a high level. You have to like her chances.
Agnieszka Radwanska – Radwanksa has made at least the quarterfinals in four of her last five Grand Slam appearances. It seems like she’s improved each year at the French Open, which includes a quarterfinal appearance last year before being eliminated by Sara Errani. Radwanksa has won more than 70 percent of her career matches and is currently ranked No. 2 in the world. She has yet beat Williams in eight career matches and has actually won just one set in those games. However, Radwanksa does have success against Li and Ivanovic, and is capable of giving most women on the tour a run for their money. Odds of +2500 are decent for somebody who can make a strong run in this tournament.
Venus Williams – Looking for the longest of longshots, Williams is your girl. Although Williams hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2008, she has been playing decent tennis since returning from a back injury, as he’s won Dubai Championship and reached the fourth round of the Sony Open. Sure, Williams hasn’t made it out of the third round in 10 straight Grand Slam appearances, but very few players have more experience than her and a 80.3 career winning percentage speaks for itself. Yes, it’s clear Venus is past her prime and stands little shot against her sister who has won six of the last eight meetings. However, much like Rodger Federer, you can’t help but wonder if there’s one last run left in the tank. I’ll throw her a bone at odds of +10000.