Roland Garros 2022 preview: WTA favorites and dark horses

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Roland Garros 2022 is underway! As Iga Swiatek dominates the clay season, Simona Halep looks to repeat her 2018 French Open success.

It’s the tournament of the year for lovers of the clay courts, and while the WTA Tour remains largely unpredictable, some players have separated themselves from the pack. As always, the stakes of a Grand Slam bring forth the best in the competitors, but the weight of each point will surely bring down the weak-willed. Thus, only the very best can stand at the top of women’s tennis, and for now, that lone wolf is Iga Swiatek.

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek has won five consecutive WTA titles and is on a 28-match winning streak now.

Iga Swiatek leagues above the competition

Jumping to the number one spot earlier in the year, Iga Swiatek has become the talk of the town in women’s tennis, and deservingly so. As of now, the Pole stands on an enormous 28-match winning streak and has picked up five consecutive WTA tournament titles along the way. In particular, the world No.1 has been relentless in the clay tournaments, having not dropped a set at the Italian Open en route to winning the event.

It’s no secret that Iga Swiatek not only has a preference for the clay surface but also plays exceptionally well on it. Her incredible speed and efficient movement are pivotal in dealing with the court’s sand-like nature, and her ability to slide well is an effective bonus to this arsenal. Her movement is complemented by her incredibly potent topspin skills that reach an average rate of above 3000rpm (rotations per minute), the best result currently on the women’s tour.

Having won the French Open back in 2020 at just 19 years old, Swiatek has some solid experience up her sleeves when it comes to dishing it out on the big stage. Winning the Qatar Open, Sunshine Double, and Stuttgart and Italian Open events, the Pole is riding on the back of 28 consecutive match wins as she enters the first round of Roland Garros up against world No.121 Lesia Tsurenko. With the odds ever in her favor and an insurmountable level of confidence and form, taking down Swiatek on clay may be the most difficult task to accomplish in women’s tennis as of now.

Ons Jabeur
Ons Jabeur won the Madrid Open this month and played the final of Rome.

Ons Jabeur and Simona Halep with a solid chance

As Simona Halep continues to make steady strides towards her peak performance as a former world No.1, Ons Jabeur has been proving why she is deserving of the world No.6 rank as she looks to crack into the WTA top 5. Winning the Madrid Open and finishing as runner-up in Rome at the hands of Swiatek, the Tunisian has been playing exceptionally good tennis this clay season and is proving to be a force to be reckoned with as we move into Roland Garros. Meanwhile, Halep has been thriving with her new coach Patrick Mouratoglou and contending with the world’s best by producing some noteworthy results.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep has won nine titles on clay, including the 2018 French Open.

Simona Halep’s most recent encounter against an in-form Iga Swiatek took place at the Indian Wells semifinals of 2022, where the Romanian narrowly lost in a tight scoreline of 6-7 4-6, showing her pool of experience in playing at a high level. Halep also lost to Ons Jabeur in their most recent match at the Madrid Open quarterfinal. In many cases, Halep’s losses are often at the hands of the tournament’s eventual champion, though she has shown she could best even Swiatek and Jabeur on a good day.

Potential dark horses: Muguruza, Ostapenko, Raducanu

It may not make sense to use the term “dark horse” since the nature of the WTA suggests that most of the Top 20 or so players are indeed dark horses, with any of them being legitimate contenders for the titles. Nevertheless, we can still separate some of these players as those with slightly more of an edge over the rest. Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, and Emma Raducanu are surely in this mix of X-factors that could take the title.

Jelena Ostapenko
Jelena Ostapenko leads Iga Swiatek 3-0 in head-to-head stats.

Among these dark horses, Jelena Ostapenko has the best track record by far against the current world No.1 Iga Swiatek, having the edge in their head-to-head with 3 wins and 0 losses to the Pole. Muguruza also has the edge over Swiatek, defeating her in Dubai last year with a relentless score of 6-0 6-4 in their only ever clash. Emma Raducanu may not have such results under her belt yet, but the teen put on an exceptional performance against Swiatek in their only encounter so far, going down 4-6 4-6 to the 2018 Roland Garros champion at the Stuttgart Open.

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu is set to play her first Roland Garros.

If there’s anything that Raducanu has over the other dark horses, she is the only one to play Swiatek on the clay surface and arguably in her best form. The Brit also stands as the most recent Grand Slam champion on the WTA Tour following the retirement of Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty, giving her an edge over the competition in terms of recent championship finals experience. Of course, being her first French Open on the WTA Tour will certainly put her at a disadvantage, so it’ll come down to how well the US Open champion can draw on her mini advantages and gain confidence from her positive performances in recent matches.

Final comments

The Roland Garros is one of the most exciting tournaments of the year because of its unique surface and atmosphere steeped in tradition and heritage. This year in particular is set to be one of the most interesting women’s tennis events as many players are showing incredible potency and championship potential in their game. With Iga Swiatek as the undisputed favorite once again, it’s going to take a special somebody to down the new world No.1 and cease the glory of the 2022 Roland Garros title!

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