Before the French Open, takes a look at the women’s draw and tries (brave / stupid) to determine the potential outcome of all four quarters.

Aryna Sabalenka in action at the final of the Madrid Open. AFP

After his special winter edition courtesy of COVID-19, Roland Garros is back in spring and before the 2021 edition of the tournament there are all sorts of storylines in the women’s singles competition. Last year’s winner Iga Swiatek is eager to prove she’s not a one-hit wonder, while world number 1 Ashleigh Barty will be looking for another coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the living room mantelpiece. Naomi Osaka has plenty of naysayers who will turn out to be wrong in the red dirt, while Aryna Sabalenka will hope this is the tournament that drives her into the elusive Grand Slam club.

Since it’s about the women -Singles trades, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. Before the French Open, takes a look at the draw and tries (brave / foolishly) to determine the potential result of all four quarters:

During the 2020 edition of the French Open, Ashleigh Barty was in the middle of an eleven month COVID-19 break. Essentially, this means the world number 1 missed out on the action for an entire season, but the way she’s been playing lately, you really wouldn’t know. Since returning to the racetrack in early February, the Australian has played eight tournaments and reached the final four times. Of these four finals, she won two, namely the Stuttgart and Miami Open.

Barty achieved considerable success on clay in 2021 and, in addition to her victory in Stuttgart, the quarter-finals of the Charleston Open, the final of the Madrid Open and the quarter-finals of the Reached the Italian Open which she withdrew with an arm injury despite being set on Coco Gauff.

If you go to Roland Garros in this form, betting against the 2019 winner would not be wise, but she still has climbing a mountain. She starts her campaign against Bernarda Pera, a match that shouldn’t cause her too much trouble, but in the third round there is a high chance that she will face Ons Jabeur, who has built a reputation for being an A tough nut to crack. After that, it’s a little harder to predict who Barty might face, as both Jennifer Brady and Coco Gauff look like rivals for that place.

In the other half of the quarter, Elina Svitolina looks like after performing well in Stuttgart and Rome a firm favorite. Svitolina will also end an opening competition with the fact that Venus Williams and Ekaterina Alexandrova will face each other in the first round. Karolina Pliskova is also in this part of the draw but has shown some disappointing performances lately. Barbora Krejcikova also yelled at herself a bit as a dark horse, having just won a title in Strasbourg.

First round matches: Yulia Putintseva against Ons Jabeur, Karolina Pliskova against Donna Vekic, Ekaterina Alexandrova against Venus Williams </ Iga Swiatek's victory at the 2020 French Open was nothing short of spectacular. The Polish teenage girl was in impressive shape and she blew every single one of her opponents and managed to lift the trophy without dropping a single sentence. Since then, her form has been a little inconsistent, with early eliminations in Australia, Miami and Dubai, but she has also won two more trophies, the more memorable of those coming after a brutal 6-0, 6-0 win over Karolina Pliskova at the Italian Open.

Swiatek will play against un seeded players in the first two rounds, after which she could possibly meet Anett Kontaveit in the third. Kontaveit currently has a 2-0 lead in the duel between the two, but both wins were taken on hard courts so Swiatek shouldn’t be worried. Round four is where things get really interesting because Swiatek may have to go up against 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, and that’s a match that’s a little too close to be called.

The woman, the Swiatek Winning the title last year, Sofia Kenin will try to make up for her loss in the final. But that could be easier said than done. Kenin got off to an absolutely terrible start to her clay season, losing in straight sets in the only two games she has played on the surface. To make matters worse for the American, she initially has a very tricky first-round match against 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, and a hat-trick with losses on clay isn’t too unlikely. Should Kenin beat Ostapenko, she could have a tough game in the fourth round as she is on a collision course with Elise Mertens, who loves to play on clay.

If Serena Williams is in the fight, it is Difficult to advocate for anyone else, but no one got more buzz in the third quarter than Aryna Sabalenka on the way to Roland Garros. Ahead of the French Open, Sabalenka made it to the Stuttgart Open final, where she was beaten by Barty before spectacularly avenging that defeat by beating the same opponent to claim the Madrid Open title. Her performance over the past few weeks means she is currently fourth in the WTA rankings, and a good performance in Paris could push that number up even higher.

That doesn’t mean it’s one for the Belarusian will be a particularly easy task. She could likely face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first week before a likely fourth-round encounter against Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka herself has a few tough games ahead of her, including a first-round encounter with Svetlana Kuznetsova and the possibility of a game in the third round against the most successful American Madison Keys.

In the other half, Serena has a pretty tame tie , with most pressing concerns in the early rounds being potential encounters against Angelique Kerber, who hasn’t been in great shape lately, and Danielle Collins, who is just making her return to the circulatory system after surgery to treat her endometriosis . Later, in the fourth round, she could face the well-known enemy Petra Kvitova, who previously beat her on clay.

Naomi Osaka is undoubtedly one of the best tennis players, but the skills of the four-time Grand Slam champion on clay were always one step below their hard court skills, even at the best of times. So far this sands season she hasn’t done much to change that fact. She has lost two of only three games she played against Jessica Pegula in Rome and Karolina Muchova in Madrid.

This time there is enough reason for her to finally put all thoughts about her competence in the dirt. She begins her campaign against the 63rd Patricia Maria Tig, who has not yet won a tournament in 2021 on clay. The most daunting of her potential opponents in the opening rounds is Paula Badosa, who takes a big title win at the Serbia Open and could knock out Osaka in the third round.

In the other half there are some players who cause problems with Osaka in the quarterfinals could, including Bianca Andreescu. Andreescu, who sustained an abdominal injury that forced her retreat in Strasbourg, will face Tamara Zidansek in the first round, followed by some tough encounters in the form of Veronika Kudermetova and Belinda Bencic. Sorana Cirstea deserves an honorable mention again this quarter as she made it to the finals in Strasbourg and brought her momentum to the tournament.

Changed date:

May 30, 2021 9:28:29 AM IST


Former number 1 in the world Serena Williams, currently eighth in the world, had received a wild card for Parma after her early departure from the Italian Open, where she also lost in the second round

Nadal, the 13-time French Open champion, said media coverage had driven the sport’s success despite respecting Osaka’s decision.

The world number two, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, says she will donate the fines she will receive to mental health charities.

Sign up for a weekly curated briefing on key strategic issues from around the world.