Elina Svitolina is one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the French Open and her first major title. Simon Hofmann / Getty Images
Elina Svitolina is one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the French Open and her first major title. Simon Hofmann / Getty Images

Open season in Paris as French Open gears up for open and unpredictable battle for women’s title



Last week, after her defeat in the Italian Open final, Simona Halep was asked who she thought was favourite to win the French Open women’s title this year. “About 15 players,” she replied.

And it is true. This French Open has got to be one of the most open women’s draw at any grand slam for a very long time.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova — winners of four of the past five French Open titles — are missing from the line-up, along with former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka, and the last major not to feature at least one of them was the 2002 Australian Open. But it is not just the absence of this trio which makes the women’s draw so unpredictable and exciting.

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Read more

■ Predictions: Is Nadal primed for La Decima? Can Halep land first major?

■ 'Toughest task in tennis': Nadal looks unstoppable ahead of French Open

■ Andy Murray: World No 1 needs to find spark with French Open approaching

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There are a number of converging storylines. For one, Angelique Kerber, the world No 1, is going through a miserable time and has not beaten an opponent ranked higher than No 25 this season. Coming into the French Open, she has lost three of her five matches on European clay this season.

Garbine Muguruza, the defending French Open champion, is struggling as well, both with her form and fitness. The Spaniard has appeared in 18 WTA tournaments since her memorable triumph at Roland Garros, but she has not reached a final in these past 12 months. Muguruza has made three semi-final appearances though, including one in Rome last week where she was forced to retire with a neck injury.

Worryingly, it was her fourth injury/illness-forced default of 2017. Despite her patchy form, Muguruza is still No 3 on the list of favourites for the crown.

Halep was the most popular choice, but her participation itself is in doubt now because of a torn ankle ligament she suffered in the Rome final.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for RG [Roland Garros],” Halep, the 2014 French Open runner-up, wrote on Instagram. “Doctors say it’s 50/50 at the moment, but it’s made good improvement since Sunday.”

If Halep — owner of the WTA-best 12-2 record on clay courts this season and winner of 26 of her last 31 matches on the surface — fails to make it, then it could be a free-for-all for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

“I’ve seen some draws that are wide open on the women’s side, but I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Pam Shriver, a former French Open four-time doubles champion, said.

“There are so many possibilities in the works.”

Many indeed ... about 15 favourites as Halep said. Elina Svitolina — winner of four titles this season, including the Italian Open last week, and No 1 on the WTA’s Race to Singapore ranking — is certainly one of them. She will move to the top of the favourite’s list should Halep fail to make it.

Then, of course, there is Kristina Mladenovic, the finalist in Stuttgart and Madrid. A late-bloomer, the Frenchwoman has a great chance of ending the host nation’s wait for their first native champion since Mary Pierce in 2000.

The 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova could fancy her chances as well.

Or maybe one of the younger members of the Tour — the Madison Keys, Daria Kasatkinas or Jelena Ostapenkos — could do a Muguruza this time.

Shriver, however, likes the chances of Venus Williams, especially after her run to the final of the 2017 Australian Open.

“Can she win it? Why not?,” Shriver said. “She is a more capable clay-court player than most people think and when you consider the big hitters that have won — Sharapova twice in the last few years and Muguruza last year — Venus is definitely one of the possibilities.”

Not many might take Shriver’s advice seriously. But if you remember, the last grand slam that Serena missed — the 2011 French Open — a certain Li Na won the title defeating Francesca Schiavone in the final. And she had finished runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open earlier that year.

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SUE GRAY'S FINDINGS

"Whatever the initial intent, what took place at many of these gatherings and the
way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time.

"Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen. It is also the case that some of the
more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders. 

"The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture. 

"I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.

"I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable." 

UFC FIGHT NIGHT: SAUDI ARABIA RESULTS

Main card
Middleweight:

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Heavyweight:
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card
Lightweight:

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Featherweight:
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Welterweight:
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Bantamweight:
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Bantamweight:
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision

Company Profile

Name: Raha
Started: 2022
Based: Kuwait/Saudi
Industry: Tech Logistics
Funding: $14 million
Investors: Soor Capital, eWTP Arabia Capital, Aujan Enterprises, Nox Management, Cedar Mundi Ventures
Number of employees: 166

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder turbo
Power: 268hp
Torque: 380Nm
Price: From Dh208,000
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COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

ANDROID VERSION NAMES, IN ORDER

Android Alpha

Android Beta

Android Cupcake

Android Donut

Android Eclair

Android Froyo

Android Gingerbread

Android Honeycomb

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Jelly Bean

Android KitKat

Android Lollipop

Android Marshmallow

Android Nougat

Android Oreo

Android Pie

Android 10 (Quince Tart*)

Android 11 (Red Velvet Cake*)

Android 12 (Snow Cone*)

Android 13 (Tiramisu*)

Android 14 (Upside Down Cake*)

Android 15 (Vanilla Ice Cream*)

* internal codenames

Tiger Stripes

Director: Amanda Nell Eu 

Stars: Zafreen Zairizal, Deena Ezral and Piqa

Rating: 4.5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Mascotte Health

Started: 2023

Based: Miami, US

Founder: Bora Hamamcioglu

Sector: Online veterinary service provider

Investment stage: $1.2 million raised in seed funding

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

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Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
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Instagram followers: 1.8 million
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Source: Hireinfluence, various

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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Company: Splintr

Started: May 2019

Founders: Mohammad AlMheiri and Badr AlBadr

Based: Dubai and Riyadh

Sector: payments / FinTech

Size: 10 employees

Initial investment: undisclosed seven-figure sum / pre-seed

Stage: seed

Investors: angel investors

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Profile

Name: Carzaty

Founders: Marwan Chaar and Hassan Jaffar

Launched: 2017

Employees: 22

Based: Dubai and Muscat

Sector: Automobile retail

Funding to date: $5.5 million

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5


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