Ashleigh Barty, Iga Swiatek, Serena Williams: Ranking the 8 favourites for the French Open

French

The French Open returns in less than two weeks as Iga Świątek bids to defend the title she won just nine months ago.

With 128 competitors, 16 wildcards and six former winners, this year’s competition promises to be full of storylines.

Świątek will seek to become the first person to defend a women’s title at Roland-Garros since Justine Henin, while Serena Williams remains in search of her 24th Grand Slam.

We’ve ranked the top eight contenders this year, in order of our favourites:

8. Coco Gauff

Still only 17 years old, Gauff has been gradually climbing the rankings since she burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2019.

The teenager started the year ranked 48th in the world, but reached the semi-final of the Adelaide International and the quarters of the Dubai Championships.

After reaching the semis in Rome last week, Gauff has risen to a career-high 30th in the rankings ahead of Roland-Garros and looks to be more confident and more assured than ever before.

Her run in Italy also saw her beat the talented Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka –– who won the Madrid Open the previous week.


7. Elina Svitolina

The Ukrainian is yet to win a tournament in 2021, but her record on clay speaks for itself.

Five finals on the surface and five wins –– the last of which came at the Strasbourg Grand Prix in September 2020.

The world number six has also pulled off impressive wins against Petra Kvitová and Garbiñe Muguruza in recent weeks and has the potential to beat anyone on her day.

Svitolina

6. Veronika Kudermetova

While the Russian is yet to reach further than the third round of any Grand Slam, her form in 2021 makes her worthy of consideration.

The 24-year-old won her maiden WTA title at the Charleston Open in April, without dropping a set –– catapulting her into the top 30 of the world rankings.

Seemingly a natural on clay, Kudermetova has a record of 13-3 on the surface this year and could easily be a dark horse to mount a title challenge in Paris.


5. Petra Kvitová

Remarkably, Kvitová is yet to win the French Open, despite being so comfortable on clay.

Having reached the semi-finals on two occasions, including last year, the Czech seems destined to reach the final soon.

Her form this season has been far from exceptional, but the two-time major winner always has the potential to string a run together when it matters.

Kvitova

4. Serena Williams

On evidence alone, Williams’ poor form and lack of match practise in 2021 suggests the US star has no chance at Roland Garros.

However, the 23-time major winner is still hunting for a record-equalling 24th title and ostensibly won’t stop until she gets there.

What’s more, Williams has proved her doubters wrong on many occasions before and has even won a Grand Slam while pregnant!

Having won at Roland-Garros three times already, the 39-year-old is still more than capable on clay and if the draw is favourable –– you just never know…


3. Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka appears to have hit form at just the right time, winning the Madrid Open at the start of the month.

Although she is yet to reach further than the third round at Roland-Garros, the Belarussian seems to have improved her game on clay –– as proven by her victory over Ashleigh Barty in Spain two weeks ago.

Having defeated Halep in Stuttgart as well, it’s clear that Sabalenka can compete with the very best on this surface.


2. Ashleigh Barty

A couple of weeks ago, the world number one was the clear favourite for this competition.

A run of 16 consecutive victories on red clay, dating back to her 2019 French Open win, cemented her place at the top of the world rankings and the Australian looked seemingly unbeatable at one stage.

The 25-year-old has added a new dimension to her game and appears mentally tougher than ever before.

Yet, after losing the final in Madrid to Sabalenka, Barty subsequently retired in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open against Gauff –– citing a recurring arm injury as the issue.

The former Roland-Garros champion has stressed this was just a precaution, but questions are being asked of her physical condition nonetheless.

If fully fit, though, there is no doubt she’ll challenge for her second major title.

Barty

1. Iga Świątek

It’s impossible to look past the defending champion as the favourite.

The Polish star won last year’s tournament without dropping a set, thrashing the likes of Halep and Kenin in ruthless fashion.

Justine Henin was the last player to win back-to-back French Opens, but the 19-year-old looks to be just as imperious as the Belgian on clay.

As if you needed any more proof of her quality on this surface, Świątek won the Italian Open Final in just 46 minutes last weekend –– beating former world number one Karolína Plíšková 6-0 6-0.

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