Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's anybody's guess as to who will capture the 2015 women's French Open title, but I'm fairly sure the answer will come from a pool of the top-three stars in Paris.
Serena Williams is, of course, the No. 1 female player in the world. She currently owns the Australian and U.S. Open titles, but hasn't typically played her best Grand Slam tennis at Roland Garros.
Maria Sharapova is No. 2 in the world, the reigning French Open champ, and has captured the lone clay-court major two of the last three years.
Third-ranked Simona Halep is a Grand Slam title waiting to happen. The nifty Romanian was last year's Roland Garros runner-up to Sharapova and seems primed for the biggest of runs in Paris.
Serena owns a whopping 19 Grand Slam singles titles, but only two of 'em have come in Paris (2002, 2013). She was a second-round loser as the reigning champ there last year, and suffered a first-round shocker in 2012, proving that she's hit or miss in the French capital. And prior to winning only her second French Open title two years ago, she'd failed to reach the final there in her previous seven trips.
She is, however, a virtually unstoppable 25-1 this season.
The five-time Grand Slam titlist Sharapova has basically been the top dog in Paris over the last few years, but she better hope that she doesn't run into Serena in the draw, considering she hasn't beaten the mighty American anywhere since 2004. That's right ... 2004!
The former world No. 1 Shaza succumbed to her fellow career Grand Slam winner in this year's Aussie final and has dropped her last 16 matches against the formidable American, who comfortably leads their lopsided lifetime series, 17-2, including a French Open final victory two years ago.
Having said all that, Maria has been peaking at the right time, highlighted by a convincing clay-court title in Rome last week.
The former world No. 2 Halep (as usual) has been flying under the radar, but the sweet-swinging Romanian already has 29 match wins in 2015, including a trio of titles, and is no doubt among the faves at the French fortnight, which will commence Sunday.
Note: The only Romanian woman ever to win it all in Paris was Halep's current manager, Virginia Ruzici, back in 1978.
Some other women to consider in Paris could be Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and in-form German Angelique Kerber, who already owns a pair of clay-court titles this season. But I wouldn't consider any of these three for long, with Serena, Maria and Simona playing the way they have.
And former top-ranked star Victoria Azarenka has been playing quality ball of late, following an injury-riddled 2014 campaign. The Belarusian star missed last year's French due to injury, but was a semifinalist there for the first time in her last trip in 2013. She also had match points against Serena in a hard-luck defeat on some clay in Madrid just a couple weeks ago.
Azarenka is a two-time Aussie Open champ and two-time U.S. Open runner-up to Serena, so we know she's more than capable of making a deep run at any tournament.
I feel like I'm supposed to mention young Canadian star Genie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up who has reached at least the quarterfinals in four of the last five majors. But she's been playing poorly since appearing in the Aussie quarters in late January.
She was a French Open semifinalist last year, but I don't see her making a return trip to the final four there this time around, as she admittedly has been battling confidence issues for months.
Even with her sub-par 7-9 record this season, Bouchard was named 2015's Most Marketable Athlete in the World, according to SportsPro, the London magazine that bills itself "the leader in global sports industry news, views, insights and features"
Well, if we throw all these names into a hat I think I'd have to pull out Sharapova's to come out on top, with Halep as a close second. I know Serena is brilliant, but she more often than not somehow finds a way to lose to a lesser opponent in the City of Light.
By the by, this year's Roland Garros queen will enjoy a windfall of $2.05 million. Not too shabby.