Rybakina and Sabalenka stand a chance against Swiatek's clay-court dominance, says Navratilova

Saturday, 25 May 2024 at 22:30
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Martina Navratilova has identified Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina as the players who can defeat Iga Swiatek at the French Open. The Polish World No. 1 arrives as the main favorite after winning both WTA 1000 titles on clay at the Madrid Open and Rome Open, and being a three-time Roland Garros champion.
Facing Swiatek is always a tough task for any player, especially on clay and given her current form. However, Navratilova believes there are still a couple of big hitters who can pose a threat to Swiatek.

"They're the two that can match her with power" - Martina Navratilova

Both players are in the bottom half of the draw at opposite ends, so they could only meet in potential semifinals and then face Swiatek in a possible final. “If somebody’s going to beat Iga, I think you have to go with the big hitters: Rybakina, Sabalenka. They’re the two that can match her with power. When Rybakina’s healthy and committed, she’s very dangerous,” she said.
“With that serve, clay is probably her worst surface -- and yet, she won Stuttgart and was the champion a year ago in Rome. Most of the time, her serve keeps points shorter. When it doesn’t, she has difficulty stringing rallies together,” Navratilova added.
Rybakina leads the head to head against Swiatek 4-2 (2-0 in clay)
The 18-times Grand Slam champion highlighted Sabalenka's consistency in the clay-swing, after reaching two consecutive finals, despite losing to Swiatek in both: “All the great ones take time away from their opponents. That’s what Swiatek did to Sabalenka in the Rome final. You think you always have to hit a great shot. That’s the common mistake: ‘Hey, Aryna, just hit another one.’
“It’s a bit of a panic when you try to hit too much. You still have to make them play. Be prepared to hit more shots. I know she has the tools, physically and mentally, to pull this off. You don’t have to redline, just amp it up maybe five percent and live to fight another day. Sabalenka’s played Iga in two straight red-clay finals, I can see it happening a third time.”

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