Five Storylines To Follow In The French Open Women’s Draw
From Swiatek’s winning run to Jabeur’s success on the clay, here are the key things to watch out for in this year’s tournament.
Over the next two weeks all eyes will be on the developments taking place in the French capital of Paris where the 126th edition of Roland Garros will be taking place.
128 players will be fighting it out for the title which also rewards the singles champion with 1000 ranking points and prize money of €2,200,000. The women’s draw is one full of intrigue with the past six editions of the tournament being won by different players. Iga Swiatek has established herself as the frontrunner but there are others following in close pursuit.
Here’s a look at some of the talking points in the women’s draw this year.
Can anybody stop Swiatek? The Pole has enjoyed a sensational past few months which has seen her win 28 matches in a row, claiming five straight titles. Out of those five, four were at WTA 1000 events. To put the run into context, only three other players on the WTA Tour have achieved such a winning streak since 2000 – both of the Williams sisters and Justine Henin.
The 20-year-old is already a strong clay court player having won half of her career titles (4/8) on the surface, including the 2020 French Open. Following her most recent triumph at the Italian Open on Sunday, Swiatek played down the potential pressure she faces of being the title favourite.
“Honestly, I’m going to do the same way I’ve done here (in Rome), also in other tournaments,” she said of her preparations for the French Open. “For sure it’s going to be a little bit harder with all the breaks that we’re going to have between matches. I also like the rhythm that we have on Grand Slams. Again, I’m going to try to do step by step, just think of the next match as I did in these tournaments.”
Out of the past 14 French Open tournaments that have taken place, the top seed has only won the title three times. Serena Williams prevailed in 2013 and 2015, followed by Simona Halep in 2018.
Swiatek’s potential path to French Open title No.2
R128 – Q
R64 – Riske/Yastremska
R32 – Samsonova
R16 – Halep/Ostapenko
QF – Pliskova/Pegula
SF – Badosa/Sabalenka
F – Krejcikova/Sakkari/Jabeur
Is Barbora Krejcikova fit enough?
12 months ago Barbora Krejcikova achieved the unthinkable by winning the French Open at a time when she only had one Tour title to her name and was yet to crack the world’s top 20 in singles. Since then, the Czech has peaked at a high of No.2 in the world with quarter-finals appearances at both the US Open and Australian Open.
However, Krejcikova enters Paris with a huge question mark over her head. Due to a troublesome elbow injury she hasn’t played a Tour match since February 23rd at the Qatar Open.
“Last year was extremely amazing,” the 26-year-old said during the French Open draw on Thursday. “I think the results that I had during that year was something incredible. I’m really happy that it happened but it was something that I didn’t expect.’
“I’m super happy to be back here (in Paris). I’m looking forward to start playing and I hope it will be a good year again.” She added.
The defending champion will be hoping to avoid a first round loss this year. Players to have won a Grand Slam and then lose in the first round 12 months later include Anastasia Myskina, Steffi Graf, Jennifer Capriati, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko.
Krejcikova will start her campaign against France’s Diane Parry.
Top names target Grand Slam breakthrough
Out of the five top seeds in the draw, three of them are yet to play in the final of a major tournament. Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari and Anett Kontaveit are yet to achieve such a milestone. Out of the trio Greece’s Sakkari has the best record at the majors with runs to the semi-final stage on two occasions, including last year’s French Open. Although she has only played six matches on the clay so far this season, winning just three of them.
Second seed Badosa has only won 15 Grand Slam main draw matches in her career to date with seven of those occurring at Roland Garros. In fact she has won more matches at the tournament than any other major with runs to the fourth round in 2020 followed by the quarter-finals a year later. Out of her three WTA titles, only one was one on clay.
Finally, Kontaveit has only managed to reach the second week at Roland Garros once in six previous attempts. Despite her success on the women’s Tour, she is yet to make a significant breakthrough at the big events and is a more formidable force when it comes to playing on the hard courts.
The past three editions of the French Open have been won by players who entered the draw with no Grand Slam titles to their name.
Emma Raducanu’s French Open debut
Since winning the US Open title last September, Emma Raducanu has endured a rollercoaster journey on the Tour and is yet to reach the final of another tournament. So far in 2022 the Brit has achieved a win-loss of 7-9 and only managed to record back-to-back wins in two out of eight tournaments. Although both of those were at a clay court event (Stuttgart and Madrid).
Part of the reason for the lacklustre results has been down to physical issues. The latest of which is a back problem that forced Raducanu to retire from her first round match against Bianca Andreescu at the Italian Open.
‘That is definitely a journey [where] I’m learning on the way but it’s just what works for me as an individual,” Raducanu recently told the Wall Street Journal when asked about her decision to split with three coaches within a year.
‘It might not work for anyone else and people might look at me like I’m crazy but I trust my own decision-making and my own beliefs of what I think is right for myself.
‘I’m pretty confident in how I’m working and my mindset and outlook towards how I’m approaching my tennis right.’
Raducanu will make her main draw debut at the French Open this year. She has previously played in the junior edition back in 2018 when she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
Will Jabeur cause a surprise?
Looking at the performances on the clay this year alone, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has to be considered as a strong contender for the title. She has achieved an impressive win-loss record of 17-3 on the surface and recently won 11 matches in a row. Something she had never done in her career before. The 27-year-old has reached the final in three out of her past four tournaments, winning the Madrid Open.
“I enjoy Roland Garros a lot. I have great memories of that Grand Slam. I didn’t think about being the favourite to go there and people expecting me to do things. But it’s for sure a good pressure for me. I hope I will be ready for it,” Jabeur told reporters in Rome last Sunday.
Seeded sixth in this year’s draw, Jabeur could potentially face Petra Kvitova in the third round should the draw go according to rankings. Then she may have to face either Raducanu or Angelique Kerber followed by a last eight clash with Sakkari.
Jabeur won the French Open junior title back in 2011 when she beat Daria Gavrilova, Caroline Garcia and Monica Puig en route to the trophy.
The full French Open draw can be viewed HERE.
Dissatisfied Aryna Sabalenka Reaches French Open Third Round
Aryna Sabalenka has sealed her place in the last 32 of the French Open for the fourth consecutive year after overcoming a spirited performance from qualifier Iryna Shymanovich.
The world No.2 powered her way to a 7-5, 6-2, win over her compatriot in a match where she at times struggled to maintain consistency in her shot-making. Sabalenka’s powerful hitting produced some stunning shots but also resulted in some costly errors which proved pragmatic at times.
“I’m not really happy with my game today,” said Sabalenka, who hit 23 unforced errors compared to 21 winners. “I’m going to work a little bit tomorrow and make sure I’m ready for the next round a little bit better than I was today.”
The first set was a far-from-perfect performance from the reigning Australian Open champion who produced a total of 17 unforced errors. Sabalenka looked to be on a good footing early after breaking for a 4-2 lead but her inconsistency enabled Shymanovich to claw her way back to level. Nudging ahead to a 6-5 lead, the second seed snatched the opener after prevailing in a marathon seven-deuce service game. Two set points came and went before Sabalenka converted her third with the help of a drop shot from her opponent landing out.
Sabalenka, who is challenging Iga Swiatek for the No.1 spot in Paris, started the second set emphatically by breaking for a 2-0 lead. However, she failed to capitalize on the opportunity as once again Shymanovich broke back. Prompting her to look towards her entourage in the crowd in frustration.
Despite the blip, the 25-year-old bounced back to crush her opponent’s hope of a shock win. Surging to a 5-2 lead, Sabalenka worked her way to three match points with a powerful forehand strike that forced her rival to return the ball out. She prevailed on her second opportunity after a Shymanovich shot crashed into the net.
“It was a tough match,” Sabalenka reflected. “She played really great tennis and I’m happy that no matter what I was able to fight for every point. I’m happy to get this win.”
Sabalenka will next take on either Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova or Magdalena Frech. Should she win that match, she will achieve her best-ever run at the French Open. Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam where she is yet to reach the semi-final stage.
Best-Of-Five Women’s Matches At The French Open A Possibility, Says Tournament Chief
The tournament director of the French Open has said she would welcome a potential change for women to play best-of-five matches during the later stages of the tournament if it added value.
Amelie Mauresmo, who is a former world No.1 player on the WTA Tour, told The Telegraph that she would ‘love’ women to play a longer final in the future. As it currently stands, all women’s matches at Grand Slam tournaments are best-of-three sets and the men are best-of-five.
Although this could change in the future should Mauresmo get the relevant backing. The best-of-five format was previously used at the WTA Finals between 1984-1998 in the title match. Other past examples include the US Championships between 1891-1901 and Billie Jean King’s Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs in 1973.
“What I’ve always thought, and this was also as a player, I would love to play a grand-slam final best-of-five or how it was at the year-end WTA championships,” Mauresmo told The Telegraph. “That is something that I would have really loved, and it’s definitely something that I would really think about, if that would add something to women’s tennis.”
Although such a change at Roland Garros would take ‘several years’ for it to be incorporated into the tournament. Furthermore, best-of-five matches for women would only be applied to the later stages of the tournament due to the scheduling.
“Maybe quarters, or maybe semis. The thing is, you cannot change it just like that. Because it asks a different preparation from the players. It would go through a different process of several years, maybe you start with the final.” She said.
During the 2021 Miami Open Stefanos Tsitsipas suggested that women should play a longer format as there is equal pay in the sport. Speaking to reporters, the Greek said that he was ‘’told that women have better endurance than men’ so ‘maybe they can also play best-of-five’.
However, that proposal was shot down at the time by Naomi Osaka who argued that such a change would have big implications on the WTA Tour.
“I feel like that would change the structure of tennis. Like people will start doing things differently in the gym and stuff like that,” Osaka said.
“It will probably also take a very long time to be implemented.”
Notable figures such as the Williams sisters, Angelique Kerber, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova have all previously spoken in favour of women playing the format.
This year is the 127th edition of the French Open which has had equal prize money since 2007.
Benoit Paire Blasts ‘Rubbish’ French Open Tennis Balls
The outspoken Frenchman has also questioned the logic of a fine recently issued to Hugo Gaston.
France’s Benoit Paire claims the balls used at this year’s French Open are so poor that they don’t even last a full game.
The former top-20 player says the balls being used at this year’s Grand Slam are only suitable for players who have certain ‘physical qualities’ and prevented him from being able to hit attacking shots during rallies. Manufactured by Wilson and developed in collaboration with the French Tennis Federation (FFT), the ball is claimed to ‘have more texture and fluff a bit more’ compared to the ones used on a hard court. It is said to be designed for longer rallies and limits moisture or dirt build-up to maintain its consistency whilst being hit.
However, in recent days there have been some players who have expressed their dissatisfaction with the ball. Speaking to reporters following his 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, loss to Cameron Norrie, a straight-talking Paire described the balls as rubbish.
“You play with balls that get bigger after two seconds. The new balls don’t even last a game,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The balls are rubbish. That’s not the reason why I didn’t win (against Norrie) but you can’t play tennis, though, with that type of ball. You can’t attack. You can’t move ahead. It’s impossible to play an ace.’
“It’s another style of tennis, which is different. It requires physical qualities. It’s a question of who can keep the ball in the court for the longest.”
“You have to hit every ball really hard because it’s not moving. It’s terrible. It’s Roland Garros, one of the greatest tournaments in the world, and we’re playing with these silly balls.”
Paire is not alone in his criticism of the balls. Another player to vent his frustration was Laslo Djere following his loss to Andrey Rublev on Sunday in the first round.
“The balls are disastrous, the courts are different every time here,” Djere told Sport Klub.
“When I trained outside of Roland Garros, the ball flies, but here it doesn’t. I don’t think I’m badly prepared physically, but after two and a half hours, hitting every ball at 200 per cent, it goes backwards.”
Issues around balls at tournaments are nothing new this year. Earlier in the season, some players voiced concerns that the heavier Dunlop balls being used could be linked to a rise in wrist injuries. Although this has not been proven.
Gaston’s fine ‘ridiculous’
Paire also spoke out about the recent fine issued to his compatriot Hugo Gaston for unsportsmanlike conduct. Gaston was hit with a 144,000 euro penalty for violating conduct rules for the fourth time within a year. At the Madrid Open, he was seen deliberately dropping a ball on the court as his opponent was about to hit a smash in the hope that the umpire would order the point to be replayed. The 22-year-old has since appealed against the fine which was halved with conditions.
The size of the fine effectively cancelled out all of what Gaston had earned in prize money this season. Something Paire disagrees with and argues that a more measured approach should be taken.
“He won $16,000 and has to pay $142,000. I don’t understand the system,” Paire commented.
“I think that you need to do things according to what you earn. You can’t ask for more money than what the player is going to earn. Otherwise, why play tennis?
“Everything that he has won in prize money since the beginning of the year is below his fine. What he did is not good, but sometimes in matches, you have bad reactions. I think that it’s silly, and it’s a shame to put such big fines.”
Paire is no stranger to getting in trouble with officials. In the past, he has been accused of tanking during matches and was fined $16,500 for his bad behaviour at the 2018 Citi Open.
“I think that we need to find a system because even for challengers, the fines are really high,” he continued.
“He (Gason) took 20,000 at the beginning of the year as a challenger, and now he has a 140,000 fine. It makes me laugh, but it’s sad. It’s a lot of money. That’s an apartment, and that’s what’s crazy.”
Paire is currently ranked 149th in the world.
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