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2014 FRENCH OPEN: Capsules on women to watch at the year's 2nd Grand Slam tennis tournament

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PARIS - Women to watch at the French Open, where play begins Sunday:

SERENA WILLIAMS

Seeded: 1

Age: 32

Country: United States

2014 Match Record: 23-3

2014 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 60

Major Titles: 17 — French Open ('02, '13), Wimbledon ('02, '03, '09, '10, '12), U.S. Open ('99, '02, '08, '12, '13), Australian Open ('03, '05, '07, '09, '10)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-Won Championship, '12-Lost in 1st Round, '11-Did Not Play, '10-QF, '09-QF

Topspin: Who would have thought Williams could become a powerhouse on clay, a slower surface that dulls the speed of her serves and powerful groundstrokes? Since the start of the 2012 clay-court season, though, she is 53-2 on the surface. ... Williams' 11 WTA clay titles are the most among active players. ... Is one Grand Slam title from matching Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18, the fourth-highest total behind Margaret Smith Court's record of 24. ... Leads tour this season in most significant serving categories, including aces, percentage of service games won, percentage of break point saved. ... Fifth consecutive major tournament seeded No. 1, the longest such streak of her career.

LI NA

Seeded: 2

Age: 32

Country: China

2014 Match Record: 26-5

2014 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 9

Major Titles: 2 — French Open ('11), Australian Open ('14)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-2nd, '12-4th, '11-W, '10-3rd, '09-4th

Topspin: Broke through for her second Grand Slam title in January by winning the Australian Open, where she had been the runner-up in 2011 and 2013. ... At 2011 French Open, became the first tennis player from China to win a Grand Slam singles championship. ... Winning 73.4 per cent of her service games in 2014, fourth-best on tour. ... Lost in quarterfinals in clay tuneup tournaments at Madrid and Rome. ... Starts off against 21-year-old Kristina Mladenovic of France.

SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 4

Age: 22

Country: Romania

2014 Match Record: 19-7

2014 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 7

Major Titles: 0 — Best: QF, at Australian Open ('14)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-1st, '12-1st, '11-2nd, '10-1st, '09-DNP

Topspin: After finishing 2012 at 47th in the WTA rankings, then closing 2013 at a career-best 11th, enjoying a surge this year. ... All seven of her career titles on tour have come in the past 12 months. ... Had never been past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament until getting to the fourth round at the U.S. Open last September, before a run to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January. ... Won the 2008 French Open junior title.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Seeded: 7

Age: 27

Country: Russia

2014 Match Record: 24-6

2014 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 31

Major Titles: 4 — French Open ('12), Wimbledon ('04), U.S. Open ('06), Australian Open ('08)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-F, '12-W, '11-SF, '10-3rd, '09-QF

Topspin: Is 46-4 on clay since 2012, including that year's title at the French Open and last year's runner-up finish to Williams. Three of those four losses came against Williams; the other was against Ana Ivanovic at Rome this month. ... Drawn into a potentially tough quarterfinal against Williams, who first could have to face her older sister Venus in the third round. ... Won clay titles at Madrid and Stuttgart this season, including six victories over players ranked in the top 10. ... Her 2012 title in Paris completed a career Grand Slam and was her first major championship since right shoulder surgery in 2010.

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA

Seeded: 9

Age: 25

Country: Slovakia

2014 Match Record: 24-11

2014 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 4

Major Titles: 0 — Best: F, Australian Open ('14)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-2nd, '12-QF, '11-1st, '10-3rd, '09-SF

Topspin: The 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Cibulkova made a Grand Slam breakthrough with her run to the final at this year's Australian Open, beating Agnieszka Radwanska, Sharapova and Halep along the way. ... After a strong hard-court season, struggled at clay-court tuneups in Madrid and Rome, with a pair of straight-set opening losses. ... Ranks fourth on tour in 2014 by winning 48.3 per cent of her return games.

ANA IVANOVIC

Seeded: 11

Age: 26

Country: Serbia

2014 Match Record: 30-8

2014 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 13

Major Titles: 1 — French Open ('08)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-4th, '12-3rd, '11-1st, '10-2nd, '09-4th

Topspin: One of seven women who have divided the past seven French Open championships. The last repeat winner was Justine Henin, who won three titles in a row at Roland Garros from 2005-07. ... Ivanovic was the runner-up in Paris in 2007, before winning the tournament a year later, but she hasn't been past the fourth round in Paris since. ... Ranks third in WTA with 112 aces in 2014. But she also has 120 double-faults. ... Only losses in European clay swing were to Williams, Sharapova, Halep.

SLOANE STEPHENS

Seeded: 15

Age: 21

Country: United States

2014 Match Record: 11-10

2014 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 0

Major Titles: 0 — Best: SF, at Australian Open ('13)

Last 5 French Opens: '13-4th, '12-4th, '11-1st, '10-DNP, '09-DNP

Topspin: Barely above .500 this season, but Grand Slam tournaments seem to bring out her best — she's made the second week at the last five majors. ... Could face Halep in the fourth round, Ivanovic in quarterfinals.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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