Simona Halep is the closest the WTA Tour has to a player of Rafael Nadal’s dominance on clay, according to Karolina Pliskova.
The ‘King of Clay’ is once again the favourite to triumph in the men’s singles at the French Open and extend his record at Roland Garros to 12 titles.
Halep ended her wait for a maiden grand slam title in Paris last year and 16 of her career finals have taken place on the dirt, the Romanian winning seven of them.
The world number three has won 75 per cent of her clay-court matches, losing just six on the surface across the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
She reached the final in Madrid before being surprisingly defeated by Marketa Vondrousova in Rome, but Pliskova believes Halep is the best the women’s game has to offer on clay.
“Simona is playing great on clay, she’s always tough to beat, doesn’t matter which surface,” Pliskova told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Hublot.
“I think she’s in great shape right now, she’s defending the title here, that’s going to be difficult. On clay she’s one of the best still, so I think for me Simona she’s still a big favourite here.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 21, 2019
“I think in women’s [tennis] everything is a little bit different. There is no one really like Nadal. I think he’s the strongest ever [to play] on clay so I don’t think there is going to be anyone like him ever again.
“And women’s is different. We are just different, you cannot compare with men’s at all. Of course, if we look for somebody, I think Simona [Halep] is close to Nadal.”
Despite her extremely high opinion of Halep, and Naomi Osaka having won the last two majors, Pliskova expects an open women’s singles tournament.
She added: “There’s really a chance for everybody so the good players they can have bad weeks but there are some new faces coming in, some young girls, and it can change and is changing quickly so some of the old faces are maybe not as good as they were before so it’s changing and it’s open.
Hublot squad pic.twitter.com/WCWdUiGGFE
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) May 23, 2019
“There is everything possible and maybe here there can be a new winner too. In a grand slam it can take nerves, it’s two weeks, which is pretty long for a tournament, I think you really need to be strong to go far.”
Pliskova is coming off the third clay title of her career having triumphed over Johanna Konta in the final in Rome, giving her a great deal of confidence for Roland Garros, where she was a semi-finalist in 2017.
“The start of the clay season was not the best for me, I was missing a couple of matches that I was hoping in Rome that I can get some, in the end I won the title, which was very special,” said Pliskova.
“I said it was like a miracle for me because I didn’t expect I was going to win such a big tournament on clay. Coming into this tournament I feel good I have a couple of matches under my belt and hopefully I can play good tennis here too.”