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KEY DATES FOR WIMBLEDON 2016

Qualifying begins: 20 June

The Draw: 24 June

Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June

Order of Play: 26 June

Championships begin: 27 June

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Wednesday 24 May 2017 17:48 PM BST
French Open 2017: Ladies' singles preview
There's no Serena, Azarenka or Sharapova - so just who will win the French Open title? READ MORE

With Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova all absent in Paris, get ready for the most wide open French Open in years.

When asked last week in Rome who the favourite was for the Roland Garros title, former finalist Simona Halep answered “about 15 players.”

Here are the top storylines to follow at the French Open, which starts Sunday:

Can Halep deal with the pressure? 

A finalist at Roland Garros in 2014 to Sharapova, French Open favourite Halep has all the shots to win a Grand Slam but has at times been let down by her mental fragility.

Some shock therapy from her coach, Darren Cahill, may have been just what she needed.

Unhappy with her attitude on the court, the experienced Australian briefly stopped working with Halep after a tough loss to Britain’s Jo Konta in Miami.

The pair reunited on the clay of Madrid, and Halep promptly won the title.

“He stopped working with me because he was upset about that match,” the Romanian told the WTA website after Madrid.

“It wasn’t because I lost, but because of my attitude and him feeling like I gave up.

"That’s why I started to work hard on my mentality, and my psychology.

"Today, I showed it’s a new Simo, that I don’t give up anymore, even if I lose a close second set.”

Could this finally be her year? Her biggest problem could be the ankle she injured in Rome but if she can get patched up and makes it through the first couple of rounds, she has time to hit top form.

The struggling stars

Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova may be the top two women’s seeds in Paris but they’ve both had a tough time on the clay this season.

A superstar in Germany after a breakthrough 2016 during which she won two Grand Slam titles and knocked Serena Williams off the top spot, Kerber won just two matches in Madrid and lost in the opening round in Stuttgart and Rome.

Although Kerber struggled with a hamstring injury this month, it seems the problem is mostly in her head.

“Everybody knows I'm not a clay court specialist,” Kerber said after losing in straight sets to qualifier Anett Kontaveit of Estonia at the Italian Open. “I think I need one good match to get also my confidence back and then to see that it works, actually.”

After reaching her first Grand Slam final at the US Open last summer, Pliskova won titles in Brisbane and Doha and earned back-to-back semi-final spots in Indian Wells and Miami. But her booming serve is less effective on slower surfaces and she hasn’t gone beyond the quarter-finals of any of the clay-court events.

Garbine Muguruza took the French Open by storm last year, beating Serena Williams for her maiden Grand Slam singles title. But the Spaniard hasn’t won a tournament since then, admitting it took some time to get used to her new status.

Recently, she has started to play well again and although she retired from the Italian Open semi-final with a neck injury, there are few players capable of beating her when her aggressive first-strike game is in full swing.

The next generation

She may not be a household name (yet) but don’t be surprised to see Elina Svitolina pop up in the latter stages of the French Open. The 22-year-old Ukrainian excels on both hard and clay courts, and is brimming with confidence after stunning Halep in the final of the Italian Open last weekend for her fourth title this year. The current leader of the WTA’s Race to Singapore, she reached the quarter-finals in Paris in 2015 and will be keen to improve on her record this year.

A French champion?

It’s been 34 years since Yannick Noah won the French Open title, but could Kristina Mladenovic break the country’s drought? A French Open doubles champion with Caroline Garcia last year, Mladenovic has had a breakthrough season, winning her first title in St Petersburg and reaching clay-court finals in Stuttgart and Madrid.

But many great French players have struggled at Roland Garros over the years and it will be interesting to see whether Mladenovic’s new-found maturity will be able to withstand the pressure.

The dangerous floaters

Having reached her first Grand Slam singles final since 2009 at the Australian Open in January - where she lost to sister Serena - don’t put it past Venus Williams to spring another surprise on the Parisian clay. Although the 36-year-old American has reached the final at Roland Garros only once, back in 2002, she was a quarter-finalist at the Italian Open last week and with her younger sister and the other big hitters absent, she may fancy her chances.

After Kiki Bertens reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros last year, “Kiki Mania” hit the Netherlands. Not used to the extra attention and pressure, Bertens wilted and has clocked up 12 first-round losses since. But things have started to click on the clay this spring as she reached the quarters in Madrid and semis at the Italian Open, where coach Raemon Sluiter told her to find her “inner gladiator.” Well capable of another deep run if her mindset is right.

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