Paris | Women’s Preview – Who will challenge clear favourite Swiatek?

The draw for the French Open was conducted on Thursday evening and, unsurprisingly, heading the field is World No 1 Iga Swiatek, who is bidding to win her second Roland Garros title, but the favourite for the title has dangerous floaters in her path to a second final on the French clay.

The 20-year old Pole, who has dominated the women’s game this year, opens against Lesia Tzurenko, a qualifier from Ukraine, and will face either American Alison Riske or Dayana Yastremska, another Ukrainian, in round 2 if she wins her 29th match in a row.

After winning the titles in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami, Swiatek has gone undefeated on clay in recent months, adding further silverware in Stuttgart and Rome before heading to Paris.

Her rise to the top of the rankings has been meteoric and, no doubt, would still have happened had Ash Barty played on but the Australian has chosen retirement, leaving Swiatek with clean air between her and the rest of the pack.

If Swiatek does win Paris, she will equal the all-time record currently held by Venus Williams, and she has done it before, Raducanu style, coming from nowhere to win the 2020 title in some style.

The past two Roland-Garros champions, Swiatek and Barbora Krejcikova are the top two seeds in Paris, but no woman has successfully defended the French Open singles title since Justine Henin in 2007, plus the Czech has been absent since March, nursing an elbow injury and her presence in Paris is a surprise to all.

Her title win last year was an earlier surprise, but she was a very worthy champion and went from strength to strength since then, climbing to No 2 in the rankings.

Krejcikova is also a doubles specialist and is the first player to be ranked No 2 in both singles and doubles at the same time since Serena Williams in 2010, while also becoming the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep both titles at Roland Garros.

Iga Swiatek, who is the top seed at a major for the first time, took the title in 2020, and reached the quarter-final last year.

© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

While the women’s game is packed with talent these days, is there really anyone who can stop Swiatek, though?

There are 7 former or current No 1s in the 2022 main draw: Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Swiatek.

In the 1st quarter of the draw, if Swiatek can make the Round of 16 for the 4th straight time, she could face another former champion in either No 19 Halep from Romania, the 2018 champion, or No 13 Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, the 2017 champion.

Halep has built a solid reputation in Paris, with a 31-10 win-loss record at the French Open, and was twice a runner-up, including to Ostapenko, before she won her first Grand Slam title on the clay in 2018.

The Romanian struggled with injuries last year and has suffered some niggles this season, but she has started working with Serena Williams’ former coach Patrick Mouratoglou, and looks to be finding her previous good form so she represents a real threat.

Another former World No 1, Pliskova, is at the bottom of this quarter as the No 8 seed, and the Czech could potentially face Madrid finalist and No 11 seed Jessica Pegula in the Round of 16, while last year’s semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, seeded 24, is also in this section.

Paula Badosa is the third seed following her breakthrough run to quarter-finals last year

© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

World No 3 Paula Badosa also holds the corresponding seeding, and she heads up the 2nd quarter.

She is an interesting mix, given she is American-born yet brought up in Spain, and has made her presence felt by racing up the rankings while, like all Spanish players, she is extremely comfortable on clay, having already won a title on the surface at the Serbia Open last year.

Badosa, who is yet to truly arrive in Grand Slams, though, with her quarter-final at the 2021 French Open her best performance to date, certainly has the game to win the title, and she opens against French wild-card Fiona Ferro.

Also in Badosa’s quarter are Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, who reached the quarter-finals here last year, as well as 22nd-seed Madison Keys from the US, a former semi-finalist in Paris.

Aryna Sabalenka and American Danielle Collins are also in the line-up for a possible Round-of-16 showdown, with Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, Shelby Rogers from the USA, and 20th seed Daria Kasatkina in their section as the other contenders.

Maria Sakkari is the 4th seed in Paris

© Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Ons Jabeur, the 6th seed from Tunisia, is at the top of the 3rd quarter and the Madrid champion and Rome finalists, who is the clay-court match-win leader so far this season, starts against Poland’s Magda Linette in the first round.

Jabeur arrives at Roland-Garros with a 17-3 record on clay, and intent on adding a maiden major to her swag.

The Tunisian continues to trail-blaze as the first Arabic player to break into the WTA Top 10 and, last month, she became the first African woman to win a WTA 1000 event when she took the title in Madrid.

As well as winning in Madrid, Jabeur has reached the finals in 2 other clay events this season, in Charleston and Rome, and it took Swiatek to stop her from winning back-to-back WTA 1000s.

Italy’s Martina Trevisan, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2020, is on track to meet the in-form Jabeur in the 2nd-round.

The other 3 seeds in Jabeur’s section of the quarter are all Grand Slam champions, with Britain’s Emma Raducanu, seeded 12, No 21 Angelique Kerber from Germany, and Czech Petra Kvitova, the No 32 seed.

Raducanu and Kerber could meet in a 3rd-round clash if seedings hold, but the Brit has been struggling with physical niggles all season.

This time round, Raducanu is contesting her first ever clay court season as a professional, and there are far older and wiser clay-courters around.

No 4 Maria Sakkari is the highest-seeded player in the quarter, and she will play home hope Clara Burel in her opener.

The Greek, a Roland Garros semi-finalist last year, could have a tricky 3rd-round match against the winner of the clash between Osaka and Amanda Anisimova, though.

Osaka has struggled mentally, but both the Japanese and Anisimova are rising back up the rankings after posting some strong results this season.

Falling out of the Top 80 after the Australian Open, Osaka made the Miami final and has climbed to No 38, just outside of the French Open seedings, while Anisimova has returned to the Top 30 after winning the title at Melbourne Summer Set 2, and making back-to-back quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome.

This quarter also has No 14 seed and reigning Olympic champion Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, and two Canadians in No 17 Leylah Fernandez, last year’s US Open finalist, and former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in one packed section, battling for a single spot in the Round of 16.

Anett Kontaveit is seeded 5th for the title

© Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

In the 4th quarter, Krejcikova is at the foot of the draw and plays French teenager Diane Parry to begin her title defence.

Hopes of playing her way into the tournament, should she clear the opening hurdle, could prove a tough ask with former US Open champion Sloane Stephens or Romanian 26th seed Sorana Cirstea looming in the 3rd round, with either Azarenka or in-form Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann from Switzerland on track to meet her in the 4th.

Teichmann recently reached the Madrid semi-finals and the Rome quarter-finals, while Stephens is the 2018 French Open runner-up.

No 5 Anett Kontaveit is also in the bottom quarter, as are 10-seeded Muguruza and No 18 Coco Gauff from the US, who could potentially meet in the 3rd round. Gauff reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris last year.

Muguruza, the 2016 champion, has a challenging opening-rounder against former Top 15 player Kanepi. Kanepi from Estonia, who has reached the quarter-finals at each of the 4 majors and has a history of knocking out big names at big events, with 9 of her 14 Top 10 wins coming at Grand Slam tournaments.

Kontaveit is a projected quarter-final opponent, while the woman she beat in last year’s semi-finals, Sakkari, could again run into her at the same stage in 2022.

Fans are assured of thrills, however the chips may fall, with eyes on one overwhelming favourite for once, although nothing is a sure bet in this game.

There are two new features to look out for at the 2022 French Open, the first being night sessions, which debuted last year without spectators because of Covid-19 restrictions, and matches under the lights are sure to attract packed crowds and bags of atmosphere, which was so lacking of late.

The second is that there will be tiebreaks in the final set, deciders having previously been played out until there was a winner, but now there will be a first-to-10 match tiebreak to resolve any deadlock.

Notable absentees in the women’s field this year include Serena Williams, who despite owning an apartment in Paris has opted to stay away, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has ended her season early to address her knee issue, and Marketa Vondrousova is still recovering from wrist surgery as well as Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina.

Williams, at 40 years old she has taken a big step back from tennis in the last two years, but has hinted that she could make a return at Wimbledon.

With anyone able to beat anyone else over 3 sets in the women’s field, other than the shoe-in Swiatek, predicting who will come through the pack to meet her in the final is nigh impossible to predict.

Among the intriguing first-round match-ups to watch via Eurosport are Osaka against the in-form Anisimova, and Muguruza facing upset specialist Kanepi.

View the full draw at the Roland Garros website HERE!



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