Halep admits to feeling pressure

The jostling began in the bottom half of the women's draw on Thursday with a place in the French Open final very much up for grabs.

Although it is the exit of Serena Williams that made the biggest headlines, with Maria Sharapova still in the top half of the draw, there is a clear favourite.

Without Australian Open champion Li Na in the bottom half, things are much more open.

The highest seed left is Romanian Simona Halep, whose remarkable rise up the rankings made her fourth seed for the tournament.

Last year she was ranked outside the top 50 but seven titles since have turned her into a real contender for the biggest prizes.

Halep, though, has only reached one grand slam quarter-final, at the Australian Open in January, so a semi-final or final would be breaking new ground.

The 22-year-old looked in good shape against Britain's Heather Watson in round two, winning 6-2 6-4 to set up a clash with Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.

Asked if she was feeling the pressure, Halep said: "A little pressure, but I want just to stay focused for every match, because here every match it's very tough.

"It's a tough tournament and I have to play my best, to do everything on court match by match, and I will see how far I can go. I expect every match to be difficult, so I cannot say that I'm thinking about the finals or something like this."

The direct beneficiary of Li's first-round loss could be 28th seed Andrea Petkovic, a 6-2 4-6 6-2 winner over Stefanie Voegele on Thursday.

The German is the only seed left in her quarter and next meets Li's conqueror Kristina Mladenovic, who backed up her big victory by defeating American Alison Riske in three sets.

Petkovic said: "I always only look match by match, but when things happen like with Li Na, everybody sort of approaches you like, 'Your draw is wide open, you're going to win the tournament'.

"You have to stop them, because Li Na lost for a reason, because there are other good players that can beat you if you're not at your best. It's not that your draw is wide open.

"It's a cliche to say I just look at the next round, but anybody who does anything else is going to lose."

There are five players left in the bottom half who have made a grand slam final - Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic - with the latter three having won titles.

Kuznetsova and Ivanovic have both won the French Open, and the latter is having her best season since her Roland Garros triumph in 2008 and must be a strong contender.

Ivanovic, who overcame a tricky hurdle in teenager Elina Svitolina, next plays Lucie Safarova while Kuznetsova, always a big danger on clay, takes on Kvitova.

Another player who will have her eye on the latter stages will be American Sloane Stephens, who reserves her best form for the grand slams.

The 15th seed has never made a final on the WTA Tour yet has reached at least the fourth round at her last five grand slams, including a semi-final at the Australian Open last year.

Stephens again looks to be hitting form at the right time, beating Polona Hercog 6-1 6-3 on Thursday.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, Stephens said: "If I had the answer for you I would tell you, but I don't have the answer.

"I probably would be doing whatever it is that I do here, I'd do every week. But I just come out and play and compete, and I guess at the slams it's a little bit better than the other weeks."

Sharapova is in third-round action on Friday against Argentina's Paula Ormaechea while third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the highest seed left in the tournament, opens proceedings on Court Philippe Chatrier against Ajla Tomljanovic.