In recent years, the women’s competition at the French Open has been a piñata. Since 2014 there have been eight different winners in eight events. Last year, the unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova surprisingly won – and not only in singles, but also in doubles. However, the 26-year-old has not played a tennis tournament since February due to an injury and is not necessarily one of the favourites, even if she herself says: “This time I can be very dangerous again and go far.”
According to the performances of the past few weeks, a maximum of second place at this French Open is possible for Krejcikova and 126 other players anyway. Because this time there is a number one who seems so far ahead of the competition, like Serena Williams recently and before that in Paris maybe only Justin Henin in the noughties and Steffi Graf or Monica Seles in the 1990s.
We’re talking about Iga Swiatek, her title win seems almost certain. The Pole has recently won 28 matches and five tournaments in a row. She also knows how it feels to triumph in Paris – in 2020 she was still the big sensational winner. This time even the supposedly toughest competitors are looking in vain for possible weaknesses in the game of the not even 21-year-old world number one.
When the last strong Tunisian Ons Jabeur was asked by journalists on Friday how to get to Swiatek, she simply passed the question on – to Swiatek, who had previously forgotten her water bottle in the interview room and now wanted to get it. “They just asked me how to beat you,” Jabeur said to her colleague, asking her, “Can you please answer them?” I haven’t found a solution yet, and the stop ball didn’t work either.”
In the final in Rome, Swiatek swept over Jabeur 6: 2 and 6: 2, and before that she was only really challenged once in the victory in Stuttgart. So can the new Polish folk heroine only stand in her own way? “I have really positive thoughts,” she said when asked about her role as a favourite, before admitting: “To be honest, there have been a few moments in recent tournaments where it has stressed me out a bit. But I’ve mastered it and I’m really able to focus fully on tennis.”
In the first round she meets the Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsureno, in round three Ludmilla Samsonowa of Russia may be the only player to take a set from her in the past 21 matches. Former winners Simona Halep and Julia Ostapenko from Latvia are also opponents on their way to the final. But can they really become stumbling blocks?
Iga Swiatek had an idea of her own – not entirely legal: “You could put something in my water,” she joked with Ons Jabeur when she took her bottle back at the press conference. Jabeur looked like she was seriously considering it for a moment afterwards. After all, the stops hadn’t worked out.