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Michael Taylor 21st May 2009 - 9:55

It's a women's world this year in Paris

Women's tennis has been living in the shadow of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for all too long but, for once, it seems the stars of the WTA could be the highlight stars of the French Open.

I don't think I'm the only person who's excited about seeing how the women's tournament unfolds especially since it looks so wide open.

With 16 players at odds of 33/1 or shorter it really does seem that anybody is capable of grabbing a life changing grand slam title at the majestic Roland Garros venue.

I do however think the current 7/2 favourite Dinara Safina will take some stopping after a start to the season that ranks as the best in her glittering career.

The dynamic Russian - sister to Marat Safin - has won two WTA tour titles this year but it's her record of 28 wins and 6 losses which signifies to me that her time has come.

Fair enough her rise to number one in the world might not have been quite so easy if the likes of the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova had been out in full force but, as they say, you can only beat what's put in front of you - and Safina certainly has done that.

She goes deep into pretty much every tournament she enters; she reached the final of last year's French Open and this year's Australian Open and she is currently riding a ten match unbeaten streak - it all points towards a long overdue grand slam title ending up in her hands come the 6 June.

The big thing is, there are still a fair few women capable of eliminating her and none more capable than either Williams sister.

Serena, a 7/1 shot and Venus, 12/1 may consider tennis secondary to their own personal lives nowadays but everybody knows that if these women wanted to then they could still dominate tennis.

Serena perhaps looks in better shape than her sister to challenge on this occasion though despite a four game losing streak.

We've seen it in the past. Serena comes into tournaments apparently out of shape, out of practice and yet dominates - that's why she has a resume that includes ten grand slam wins and career earnings in excess of $23,000,000.

The question is, is her mind focused? If it is then the field should be scared while punters will be jumping for joy.

Elsewhere, two players that can be ruled out straightaway in my mind are former world number ones Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, priced at 33/1 and 10/1 respectively.

Luckily for Sharapova her problems right now don't seem to be too chronic, it's more a case of this tournament coming too soon as she attempts to get back in shape following a nine month injury lay-off.

The fact that she managed two victories in her comeback at Warsaw was impressive enough but, in the end, world number 39 Alona Bondarenko badly exposed her weakness with a dominant straight sets win - we may have to wait until Wimbledon to see the Sharapova of old.

Last year's winner Ana Ivanovic on the other hand really does have a lot to be concerned about.

Since topping the rankings in June last year it has been nothing but bad news for the Serbian beauty as she's all too often struggled to overcome what should be simple opponents.

She has managed to maintain her top ten status and won around about two thirds of all her matches this season but I would be extremely surprised if she goes deep into the second week here.

Finally, the best piece of advice I can offer if you're searching for a big priced dark horse is to back 66/1 chance Marion Bartoli each way.

The French number two has been having yet another good season and, although her recent clay court performances haven't been especially impressive, she has managed to beat Caroline Wozniacki and push Elena Dementieva hard.

If she gets through the opening rounds without too many problems then, as she has shown in the past, she is the sort of person that thrives on the crowd and her own momentum.

It's a long shot but stranger things have happened.

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