With the news that the injury that led to her withdrawal from the Rome Masters isn’t serious, Iga Swiatek will be the undeniable favourite to win her third Roland Garros, but with the brewing of an exciting new rivalry, who are the players that could stop her?
Fans of Iga Swiatek may have been slightly worried when the world number one pulled out of her quarter-final match against Elena Rybakina at the Rome Masters, but they needn’t be. The news appears to be all good for Swiatek, who will now look forward to attempting to defend her Roland Garros title.
Swiatek has been the dominant force over the last year or so in the WTA and, as the winner of two of the last three French Opens, has always looked particularly at home on the clay of Roland Garros.
At last year’s tournament, Swiatek only dropped one set and she will be the overwhelming favourite for the title when the tournament kicks off in the next few days.
However, over the last few weeks some very credible contenders have also staked their claim for the title in Paris.
The new “Big Three”
In the three major clay court tournaments that precede the French Open, there have been three different winners.
Swiatek triumphed at the first in Stuttgart against Aryna Sabalenka, at Madrid a few weeks later Sabalenka would get her revenge against Swiatek, and finally in Rome a new clay court contender, Elena Rybakina, was crowned champion.
These three players have been the winners of the last four Grand Slams (Swiatek in France, Rybakina at Wimbledon, Swiatek at the US Open and Sabalenka in Australia), and the three seem to have struck up a fascinating rivalry that may well dominate the WTA circuit for years to come.
Of the three, Swiatek is the most likely to win Roland Garros, but the heavy ground strokes of Rybakina and Sabalenka may well cause trouble for the world number one.
Rybakina and Swiatek find themselves in the same half of the draw, which could be very interesting if the two are to meet. Rybakina has a fantastic head-to-head record against Swiatek, having beaten her every time they have played this year.
In the other half of the draw, Sabalenka will be happy to avoid both Rybakina and Swiatek until the final. Her biggest challenge may well come from last year’s semi-finalist at Roland Garros, Daria Kasatkina.
What make Swiatek and Sabalenka particularly special is not just their hitting ability, but their movement around the court, which is second to none amongst the WTA circuit.
The big three are the bookies favourites, by quite a distance, but if there’s one thing we know about women’s tennis, it’s that it’s very unpredictable.
Jelena Ostapenko 22/1 – The former champion at Roland Garros in 2017, Ostapenko never really capitalised on the potential she demonstrated six years ago. That said, a good run to the semi-finals in Rome proves that she still has the ability to perhaps cause an upset.
Cori Gauff 30/1 – The American superstar has demonstrated world beating potential on a number of occasions. Her best run at a Grand Slam came at last year’s French Open, where she made the final only to miss out to Swiatek. While it is not out of the question that she could have a good run in France, there is the potential that her doubles with Jessica Pegula may well take priority.
Maria Sakkari 40/1 – Sakkari has always shown remarkable potential on a tennis court, but always seems to fall just short when it comes to crunch time in tournaments. A semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2021 and having had a decent run in Madrid, is this the year when Sakkari pushes past the semi-final curse?
Daria Kasatikina 80/1 – Last year’s semi-finalist, again missing out to Swiatek, Kasatkina didn’t drop a set enroute to her defeat to Swiatek. Despite this her clay court season has been quite lacking, but if she can re-enact some of the form she showed last year, then she could pose a threat to anyone.
Despite the wide range of talent that exists within the WTA circuit, it feels as if something special is brewing between Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina. The three appear to be in a league of their own and will take some stopping this year.
If Swiatek’s injury that she picked up in Rome is as minor as it seems, then it will be her tournament to lose. The world number one has shown herself to be a cut above the rest when it comes to clay, but Rybakina and Sabalenka will do their very best to prevent Swiatek winning in France again.
It stands to be a truly memorable Roland Garros.