Iga Swiatek vs. the field: examining the women's French Open favorites

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 at 19:10
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With the French Open draw taking place on Thursday, we now take a look at the top 10 contenders for the women's French Open title at Roland Garros. But can anyone stop the Queen of Clay, Iga Swiatek?
Compared to the men's edition with potentially up to 20 contenders, there are less with the women's tournament with a few standout names. Albeit as ever, shocks are bound to happen. The WTA though for once isn't a hive of mystery with the ATP seeing a myriad of injuries and form doubts adding to the intrigue. Each player will also get a rating out of 10 as to their chances for the title for the tournament that starts on 27 May and will run until June 9.

1. Iga Swiatek

As expected, Iga Swiatek leads the way in this top ten. The imperious force in the WTA and even if she lost early, she still wouldn't lose her World No.1 spot which is a true show of her dominance.
A 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win for Swiatek in last year's final accrued her a third career French Open title and it could be a history making victory on the courts of Paris as she will be looking to join a select group of players who have lifted the trophy four times when she begins her title defence next week.
Winner of Madrid last week. Can the Queen of Clay be toppled?
Only Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Justine Henin who are all of course very esteemed company have claimed at least four titles at Roland Garros and who could bet against her again. She did the so-called Dirtball Double winning both Rome and Madrid and has been a dominant force again on clay. She is certainly the woman to beat and it is very much Iga vs the field? She also could do the triple crown of winning Rome-Madrid-Paris which has only been done by Serena Williams previously.
Rating - 10/10

2. Aryna Sabalenka

Following on from Swiatek will be her likely nearest rival in Aryna Sabalenka who has not won a title since the Australian Open. But she has had Swiatek hoovering up titles at her expense more often than not so that is perhaps a false stat.
Sabalenka has bounced back well after having personal issues after the passing of her ex-boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov. But with new boyfriend, Georgios Frangulis who is the man behind the Oakberry Acai brand at her side, she seems in a good place and certainly is on the court too.
Can Sabalenka stop Swiatek's Paris dominance?
Reaching the final of Madrid and Rome, she must be sick of the sight of Swiatek and given the fact that she will go in again as second seed could face her in the final if she doesn't trip up again in the semi-finals. She lost last year shockingly to Karolina Muchova and has never won a major outside of Australia which may give some concern to her chances. But not many players have won majors in this current era aside from players like Rybakina and Gauff alongside Swiatek.
She could presumably meet Swiatek in the final and given her former runs in Paris is certainly a player that has the prowess to go on and lift the title. Certainly one that will be ready to pounce at any sight of Swiatek weakness or an early defeat. But also she will hope to take on the Queen of Clay and make up for past defeats if she faces her. Interestingly, she also had a similar scenario to Rome in Australia.
She was thumped by Elena Rybakina in the Brisbane final and came back to seal the title in Melbourne in truly staggering fashion. So could it be another omen after she was well beaten by Swiatek? She ranks better though than any other player at the moment.
Rating - 9/10

3. Danielle Collins

Next up is a certain 'Danimal' Danielle Collins. Perhaps a controversial placing on this list compared to those below. But indeed with the American, there are less question marks at least on current form.
Winning Miami and Charleston back-to-back, she blew hot and cold in Madrid. But she was back at it in Rome reaching the semi-finals and only lost to Aryna Sabalenka during both weeks.
She plays Internationaux de Strasbourg this week and will aim to continue that winning feeling. But despite seeing it more as a culmination of her hard work, it has been seen by others as a freedom given by her imminent retirement. Ever since being well beaten by Iga Swiatek at Indian Wells, she has barely lost a match and has truly been one of the best players in the world. Ranked 12 so perhaps a controversial pick, but truthfully others in the top 10 aren't in any form whatsoever and have doubts.
A former Quarter-Finalist in her second best run aside from the Australian Open, it is a different 'Danimal' so to speak this year and one that could yet upset the apple cart.
Rating 7/10

4. Elena Rybakina

The question marks mainly surround Elena Rybakina and her health going into Roland Garros. Going into last year's tournament, she kind of sat in the Aryna Sabalenka mould of being the top player to watch when it came to the leading trio.
She won Stuttgart this season. But it came crashing down when she had to withdraw from Rome due to illness. Often the caveat though with Rybakina is that if she does withdraw from tournaments, she often plays superbly when she does play them. So there isn't really a drop off when she does play.
That in itself could be a real help. Also there is a slight unknown when it comes to Roland Garros. She is a former Quarter-Finalist in 2021. But hasn't really starred at the tournament during her current guise. One that has seen her become one of the best players in the world. Practicing with Aryna Sabalenka and taking part in social media content, she seems to be in good spirits. So time will certainly tell when she does get onto the court next week. But it is not technical issues and more doubts on her health.
Rating 7/10

5. Coco Gauff

While for Gauff, it is more technical issues that perhaps let her down. She continues to have problems at times with her serve and double faulting which make it a bit difficult to gauge as to whether or not she can perform at Roland Garros to her best.
Gauff though which is testament to her play has been still in the latter end of tournaments despite this showing that even though there might be some question marks surrounding her serve that she is there or thereabouts.
Will Coco Gauff's serve hold up in Paris?
A Grand Slam champion too since she last appeared at Roland Garros, she also reached the final in 2022 losing to Iga Swiatek. So if she can get the serve sorted, she will be a factor. But maybe not right now down the stretch.
Rating 6/10

6. Marketa Vondrousova

A pick solely based perhaps on her previous Roland Garros pedigree as opposed to current form. The big factor for Marketa Vondrousova will be Strasbourg this week and whether she can play herself into form.
Similar but of course on a lesser scale to Novak Djokovic's decision to play late, she took a wildcard after Pegula and Raducanu withdrew from the tournament to play matches. She won in three sets to open up against Magdalena Frech. Also she needs a good tournament to play herself into form ahead of Wimbledon where she will defend her title.
Blighted by injury since her SW19 run, it could be the tournament similar to her initial landmark run that she puts it together. Or it could be an early exit and one of the seeds under threat. Time will tell for the Czech ace. But she has previously reached the final and sits as World No.6. Enough to put her as a contender.
Rating 5/10

7. Maria Sakkari

On the other hand, Maria Sakkari has shown great form as of late. But perhaps is a little bit fragile when it comes to Grand Slams hence why she doesn't appear higher.
The Greek Spartan has teamed up recently with David Witt. She has left behind long-time coach Tom Hill who has since teamed up with Peyton Stearns. The American having some early success under his tutelage.
Sakkari in recent tournaments has reached the Last 16 losing out to Victoria Azarenka in Rome. Same result in Madrid against Beatriz Haddad Maia, semi-final in Charleston against Danielle Collins, Quarter-Final in Miami against Elena Rybakina and losing to Swiatek in the Indian Wells final. So she hasn't lost earlier than the Last 16 for a long time and ever since she joined forces with David Witt.
But Sakkari doesn't get a higher rating due to her previous semi-final heartbreak in Paris and not fulfilling her form in previous Grand Slams. So some scar tissue perhaps.
Rating 5/10

8. Ons Jabeur

While Ons Jabeur has pedigree on this surface but no form at all and hasn't done for some time. The Tunisian lost in Rome to Sofia Kenin, Stuttgart to Jasmine Paolini and reached the Quarter-Finals of Madrid in between against Madison Keys.
A tournament that she loves though in that case. So her form has been middling and has been poor throughout the whole 2024 season. Knee issues have cost her a lot of potential wins and she has been trying her best to find something.
Something that needs to come out with the grass season on the horizon and she will hope that the French Open brings the change. But whether her body will let her do that is another matter. Never write off the Tunisian though who gets a spot in the top 10 based off previous pedigree and the potential for top names to fall off when it comes to the early rounds. Linda Noskova and Anna Blinkova at the Australian Open for instance provided the blueprint.
Rating 4/10

9. Qinwen Zheng

The final two are players seen as dark horses with good form and also pedigree on the surface. Qinwen Zheng is the first. A former title winner on clay winning Palermo last year, she was only defeated by Coco Gauff in Rome.
A best run in terms of overall level since reaching the Australian Open final. She pushed Iga Swiatek two years ago at this very tournament. So if the best Queenwen comes out, she will be one to watch.
Also now a Grand Slam finalist, she knows how to get through the latter hurdles so if you are looking for one player to get behind this fortnight. Draw dependent, head to Queenwen.
Albeit in Rome, she did have the fire of facing Naomi Osaka after the whole Wim Fissette debacle. So whether this is just a flash in the pan based off personal feelings or whether she is returning to form remains to be seen. But certainly as she proved in Australia, she has the game to really pick apart the draw if it becomes open and it could do if a big name falls.
Rating 4/10

10. Elina Svitolina

Another is Elina Svitolina. Albeit she has just lost to Clara Burel in Strasbourg so how she is ahead of the French Open is an interesting one. She only lost to an excellent Aryna Sabalenka in Rome and had match points.
Prior to that though, she has lost to Emma Navarro, Naomi Osaka, Elise Mertens and Sara Sorribes Tormo with a lot of early defeats. Albeit to quality operators, it isn't the same complexion as last year.
She won Strasbourg and went on to reach the Quarter-Finals of the French Open and semi-finals of Wimbledon. A player that usually turns it on in Grand Slam tournaments, she can't be written off. The comeback player of the year and still one to watch ahead of the 2024 French Open.
But perhaps one to look at with caution hence the 4/10 verdict in this case compared to a few months back when she would've gone higher.
Rating 4/10

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