Photo : Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
Two defending champions, a bunch of under-the-radar stars, and a chase for history.
Those are just a few of the storylines heading into Roland Garros next week.
The French Open has an interesting streak going where the last five women to win the singles crown were first-time Slam winners at the time of victory.
But given the form of the last two champions, both of whom won the title in their most recent appearance, it seems like that streak might finally be broken.
Oh, and the last person to win the French Open who was not a first-time winner is looking for the most major titles ever at this year’s event.
This is going to be fun.
With the season’s second major getting underway on Sunday, let’s take a look at where the stars of the women’s tour stack up heading in the French Open.
PETE’S WTA TOUR POWER RANKINGS – Week of May 24, 2021
|2021 Record: 27-5 (3 Titles)||Actual Rank: 1||Last Week Result: DNP|
The world number one returns to Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden slam title in Paris back in 2019, having skipped her title defence last fall. Barty is in fine form having reached the quarter-finals or better in five straight events, including three finals and two titles, one on clay in Stuttgart. She was also the runner up in Madrid.
The only blemish on her record is a retirement in the Rome quarter-finals while up a set on Coco Gauff. Still, that probably strategic withdrawal does little to diminish the fact that she is the favourite at the French Open.
|2021 Record: 19-5 (2 Titles)||Actual Rank: 9||Last Week Result: DNP|
The defending French Open champion made a statement in Rome a couple of weeks ago, blowing away the field and capping off the title run with one of the biggest beatdowns in recent memory against Karolina Pliskova in the final, dishing out the first title-match double bagel in the tournament’s storied history.
Swiatek showed the kind of blistering form that saw her decimate the field last October in Paris and if she keeps the momentum up, she could very well do it again over the next two weeks.
|2021 Record: 25-7 (2 Titles)||Actual Rank: 4||Last Week Result: DNP|
Is this finally the time that Sabalenka gets over the fourth-round hump at a major?
No one doubts the Belarusian’s power and she has shown the ability to win big matches, she just has yet to do it at a Slam.
But a strong clay court swing from Sabalenka that saw her reach a pair of finals, both against Barty, and score a victory over the world number one in Madrid showed that her game is there, she just needs to bring it when the pressure is on in Paris.
|2021 Record: 23-9 (1 Title)||Actual Rank: 25||Last Week Result: Parma – W|
The 17-year-old American is coming into Paris red hot after an impressive clay court swing. She reached the quarterfinals or better at three of her four events, and the only one she did not was Madrid where she had to play the sixth seed Pliskova in the first round.
She beat three seeds in Rome, including Sabalenka and Barty (although the latter was via retirement) and gave Swiatek a stern test in the semis. And then she turned around and won Parma last week. Seeded 24th, Gauff looks primed to wreak havoc.
|2021 Record: 19-9||Actual Rank: 6||Last Week Result: DNP|
While the biggest headlines for Svitolina lately involved her fiancé Gael Monfils, Roger Federer, and attempted social media post gone wrong, the Ukrainian quietly has had a strong clay court swing, limited by some unfortunate draws.
She lost to the eventual champion in three of her last five events, including two of her three clay court tournaments: to Barty in the Stuttgart semis and Swiatek in the Rome quarters. All she might need is one small break in the draw and she could be ready to finally have a major breakthrough.
|2021 Record: 14-9||Actual Rank: 10||Last Week Result: DNP|
Pliskova made the Rome final, a great result on clay which suggests she should be in good form going into Paris. Let’s just not talk about what happened in that final.
In any case, she beat several good opponents on her way to that title match and gave Barty a stern test on clay in Stuttgart, so when she’s not getting blown off the court, she’s able to do it her opponents which makes her dangerous.
|2021 Record: 15-8||Actual Rank: 12||Last Week Result: DNP|
Kvitova is always a strange one because her style should not work on clay, and yet it does. She has the type of serve and power that can do damage to pretty much any opponent.
She has made the semis twice in Paris, including last fall, and it took super efforts from Barty and Svitolina to beat her on the clay this spring, which indicates she could very well enter the history books as one of the few players whose only major titles came at Wimbledon and Roland Garros.
|2021 Record: 20-7||Actual Rank: 15||Last Week Result: DNP|
Mertens may be trending in the wrong direction heading into Paris, losing earlier in each successive event for three tournaments running now, but that does not change the fact that she reached the final on clay in Istanbul and beat Simona Halep, who is a threat even when not 100 percent healthy, in Madrid. Those are some solid clay results and is a safe-ish bet on a difficult to predict WTA Tour.
|2021 Record: 9-3||Actual Rank: 7||Last Week Result: Strasbourg – QF|
Andreescu is the first of several players on this list who is ranked not so much based on their current form, but what they are known to be capable of.
The Canadian has only played two matches since retiring from the Miami final in April… and she ended up withdrawing this week in Strasburg almost immediately after winning her second-round match. However, both of those matches were blowout wins and the withdrawal was likely precautionary with the French Open fast approaching.
The math with Andreescu is pretty simple: when she plays, she almost always wins. And her style adapts well to the clay. If she stays healthy, she should be among the favourites in Paris.
|2021 Record: 23-7 (1 Title)||Actual Rank: 13||Last Week Result: DNP|
The 2016 French Open champ may not have had a great clay court swing, but she was one of the best on the tour during the early hard courts, reaching three finals. Given that she has shown good form in 2021 and is a former champion at Roland Garros, she is always someone to watch out for.
|2021 Record: 9-3||Actual Rank: 8||Last Week Result: Parma – R2|
Williams is a tough one to gauge because she has only played four tournaments, totaling 12 matches, since last year’s French Open.
On the one hand, she went 1-2 in her clay court warm-up events. On the other, she is Serena Williams and is still dead set on getting slam No. 24. Until the day she retires, she will always be considered a threat because she is Serena Williams.
|2021 Record: 13-3 (1 Title)||Actual Rank: 2||Last Week Result: DNP|
It is strange to rank the world number two, who has won the last two majors, this low. But it is somewhat earned. Osaka did not have a good spring, going 1-2 on clay, and simply has not played much tennis, three tournaments in total, since winning her fourth major in February at the Australian Open.
As bizarre as it might be, Osaka is actually under the radar coming into Paris. But given her play, or lack thereof, lately, a good result might be more surprising than a bad one.
|2021 Record: 11-10||Actual Rank: 11||Last Week Result: DNP|
As long as Bencic stays away from Paula Badosa, who accounted for two of the Swiss’ four losses on clay this year, she should be ok in Paris. It has not been a great season for Bencic so far, but she has been a regular in rounds of 16 around the globe so there is some consistency there, albeit probably not the consistency she might be looking for.
|2021 Record: 7-8||Actual Rank: 5||Last Week Result: DNP|
Hard to believe that six months ago, Kenin looked ready to take over the tennis world after winning the Australian Open and then reaching the final of Roland Garros. But the American, despite being seeded fourth, is not getting much talk heading into this year’s event.
This is largely due to her 7-8 record since the French Open final last October and the fact that she enters Paris on a three-match losing streak. She just has not been the same since running into the Swiatek sledgehammer.
|2021 Record: 10-10||Actual Rank: 23||Last Week Result: Parma – QF|
Despite a five-match losing streak that was only broken a few weeks ago, Martic seems to be finding her form just in time. She snapped the skid with a comeback win in her Rome opener and turned that into a semifinal run, where she lost in three sets to Pliskova. She followed that up with a quarterfinal appearance in Parma.
Martic also reached her lone major quarter-final the last time the French Open was played in the spring, so she is worth keeping an eye on.
Main draw play gets underway at the French Open on Sunday, May 30.