Caroline Garcia, the last Frenchwoman standing and the seventh seed, faces a serious test of her title aspirations against former world #1 and two-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber. Both women have had good results at Roland Garros, with Garcia reaching the last eight in Paris just last year, without ever having delivered their best tennis. But both will see themselves as real contenders in a fairly open draw if they can get through this match. Who will come out on top?
This will be a seventh meeting for the pair with Kerber having won four of the previous six. That includes victories in 2014 at the Rogers Cup and in Brisbane and Hong Kong in 2015. She also won their most recent meeting which came earlier this year in the fourth round at Indian Wells where the German won comfortably 6-1 6-1. Garcia, however, won their only clay court match when Kerber retired trailing 3-6 0-2 four years ago at the Madrid Open. She also defeated Kerber last year in Wuhan in three sets, 3-6 6-3 6-1.
Path to the fourth round
Garcia began her Roland Garros campaign with an utterly dominant victory against Duan Yingying of China, who was playing her first clay court match of the season. It swiftly also became her last as Garcia advanced to the second round a 6-1 6-0 winner. Peng Shuai proved a sterner test for Garcia, with the former doubles #1 battling hard in a 4-6 6-3 3-6 defeat. Garcia was more comfortable in defeating Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, reaching the fourth round after a 6-3 6-1 win.
Kerber, who had lost first round in Paris in 2016 and 2017, avoided another early exit with a comprehensive 6-2 6-3 victory over her compatriot Mona Barthel. She won by the same score in the second round where she took on Ana Bogdan of Romania, which set up a third round clash with 18th seed and recent Madrid finalist Kiki Bertens. Kerber scraped through to the fourth round with a 7-6 7-6 win, with the German able to raise her level at the crucial moments.
How do they match up?
Both Garcia and Kerber are excellent baseliners. The Frenchwoman has power on both wings, with her forehand the more dangerous of the two. Her backhand is none-the-less a reliable shot and Garcia is well-capable of striking it for winners. Kerber also relies on her forehand to do most of the damage to her opponents, with the German taking advantage of her left-handedness to breakdown weaker backhands with her cross-court forehand.
Both women will be aware of the importance of their serves in this clash. Off the ground there is very little to separate them, which will give their serving an even more vital role in this clash. Garcia, after a poor day on serve against Duan, has stepped up her level, and made above 70% of her first serves against both Peng and Begu. Kerber, meanwhile, has not managed to make more than 65% of her first serves in any of her matches, which could prove costly against Garcia.
This has the makings of an excellent match, and it could easily go either way. But Garcia has generally looked the more comfortable of the two on clay and will also have the backing of the French crowd on Lenglen, which should count in her favour. Kerber has the weapons and the quality to make this an engaging and close contest, but expect Garcia to keep French hopes alive for at least one more round in three sets.