AFP, Paris : Former champion Simona Halep arrives at the rescheduled French Open as the player to beat in a women's draw missing title holder Ashleigh Barty and recent US Open winner Naomi Osaka, two of the world's top three. Serena Williams can never be discounted as she launches another bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles crown, but Roland Garros is the American's least successful major despite her wins in 2002, 2013 and 2015. Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Williams in the 2016 final, is another contender while fellow former world number one Victoria Azarenka is hoping to take the momentum from her run to the US Open final into the clay swing. Last year's runner-up Marketa Vondrousova will again target a deep run in Paris having rediscovered some form at last week's Italian Open, where she made the semi-finals before losing to compatriot Karolina Pliskova. The fourth-ranked Czech retired from the final with a thigh injury after dropping the first set to Halep, who extended her winning run to 14 matches after capturing a second consecutive title coming out of lockdown. Pliskova, the second seed in Paris, said Halep was undoubtedly the favourite for a tournament pushed back from its traditional spring slot for the first time in its history due to the coronavirus. "I think she's going to be the (top) favourite from the women's tournament, because I think also the way she played, she played already (won) Prague on clay. She won this tournament. "So I feel like she's confident. For sure she's going to be dangerous. "I know the weather is not looking that great in Paris, so I think the conditions just to like play aggressive game against her is going to be quite tough." Halep, who also won in Dubai before the five-month tour suspension, spent the break working hard on her fitness, but said the global health crisis had given her a fresh outlook on tennis.
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