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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Yara El-Shaboury

French Open 2024 women’s form guide: ones to watch at Roland Garros

(Left to right): Caroline Garcia, Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Katie Boulter.
(Left to right): Caroline Garcia, Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Katie Boulter. Composite: EPA; Xinhau/Shutterstock; AP

How top five shape up

Iga Swiatek Betting against Swiatek on the red dirt would be unwise. With an 88% win record on clay, the world No 1 will aim to become the first woman to win the titles in Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros in the same season since Serena Williams in 2013. The Pole comes into the tournament on a 12-match tour-level winning streak. Swiatek boasts the best defence on this surface and an extremely powerful forehand. Her understanding of how to optimise her game on clay makes her the clear favourite for a three-peat.

Aryna Sabalenka “I’ll get you there,” were Sabalenka’s words to Swiatek about a potential Roland Garros match-up after her final loss to the world No 1 in Rome. It may have been said in jest, but the Belarusian is the biggest threat to Swiatek’s dominance despite clay being her weakest surface. The world No 2’s powerful hitting helped her defend her Australian Open title in January and after a slight dip in form she reached the finals in Madrid and Rome.

Coco Gauff The American’s season has started slowly, with only one title in Auckland back in January. But the 20-year-old’s strong serve will always give her the potential to go deep in the tournament. Gauff’s spinning forehand remains her biggest weakness and while the slow clay courts might give her more time to execute her shots, top players can still pressure her into mistakes.

Elena Rybakina The former Wimbledon winner has already claimed three titles this season, with victories in Brisbane, Abu Dhabi, and Stuttgart. But Rybakina has struggled with fitness, withdrawing mid-tournament in Dubai and skipping her title defence in Indian Wells. Her versatile backhand, capable of going cross-court or down the line, forces opponents into fast and hard forehands, making them more susceptible to errors.

Jessica Pegula The only player in the top five to have not won a slam and that is unlikely to change in Paris. Pegula reached the quarter-finals of the clay court slam at Roland Garros last season, but she last competed in the Billie Jean King Cup in April and is currently recovering from an unknown injury. She has said that she has not been able to achieve her peak this season due to the WTA’s schedule.

Best home hope

Caroline Garcia The Parisian crowd has not seen a homegrown singles champion since Mary Pierce in 2000 and this year their hopes will rest on the world No 24, Garcia, whose best result at Roland Garros was a quarter-final exit in 2017. Garcia is an all-out attacking player, known for her brutal power and aggressive court positioning, who likes to stand atop the baseline to take time away from her opponents. The 30-year-old previously won the doubles title with Kristina Mladenovic in 2016 and 2022.

Best British hope

Katie Boulter With Emma Raducanu out, Boulter heads to Paris to make her main draw debut. Her best performance was reaching the second round of the qualifying stages last year. Although clay is her least familiar surface, she comes into the tournament with newfound confidence after claiming two WTA titles in the past year.

Best American hope

Danielle Collins Aside from the Americans Gauff and Pegula, Collins has been enjoying a successful final season on tour. The 2022 Australian Open runner-up announced in January that she will be retiring to focus on starting a family and she clearly wants to go out on a high, having won back-to-back tournaments in Miami and Charleston. Madison Keys has also impressed, with deep runs in Madrid and Rome.

Big name most likely to crash out early

Marketa Vondrousova The former French Open finalist made history last year as the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon. Her crafty and creative game is effective on clay and grass and she excels at absorbing and redirecting pace, which can frustrate opponents. Although Vondrousova had a significant win against Sabalenka earlier this season, the Czech has struggled for consistency, which makes her vulnerable to an early exit.

Outsider with best chance of glory

Mirra Andreeva It may be too soon for Andreeva, aged only 17, to win a slam but she is on the rise. A strong returner and shows remarkable baseline defence for someone her age but lacks consistency in her service games. The youngster showed good form in Madrid, falling short against Sabalenka in the last eight and can make a deep run in Paris if the draw is kind.

One to watch

Jelena Ostapenko One of the most polarising players on the tour, a player you either love or hate. The Latvian’s uncompromising play led to her only grand slam victory, in Paris in 2017, and she has recently re-entered the top 10 for the first time in five years. She is fiercely competitive and known for openly berating her opponents, the umpire, and even herself on the court. While these antics can deter some, her game is incredibly dynamic, characterised by speed, power and occasional erratic play. She might not always be a joy to watch, especially when grumbling about calls, but she is undeniably captivating, making you wonder whether you will witness a meltdown or a masterclass. She notably has won all four career meetings with Swiatek, though none were on clay.

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