Five Storylines to Look out for the 2022 French Open
We are a few days of the start of the 2022 French Open and the women’s draw promises to be a thrilling one. Whether it represents the ascension of Iga Swiatek into tennis’ greats, the breakthrough of an unexpected player or the redemption of an underperformer, Roland Garros will witness plenty of action over the next fortnight.
Here are five data-driven stories to keep an eye on this year in Paris:
1. Iga For It
Two years after introducing herself to the tennis world with a maiden title at Roland Garros, Iga Swiatek comes back to Paris after winning five consecutive titles this season (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome). If she wins her second French Open, the Pole will become just the third player this century to win six trophies in a row, alongside Justine Henin (2008) and Venus Williams (2000).
2. Marching Ons
This has also been a memorable season for Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian became the first African female player to win a WTA 1000 after lifting the trophy in Madrid and she leads the WTA Tour, excluding grand slams, in several areas such as winners (852), forehand winners (486), backhand winners (260) successful net approaches (196) and successful dropshots (103).
She has also won 11 out of her 12 last matches. Can she go one step further and become a grand slam winner?
3. Expected the Unexpected
Roland Garros has been a tournament of unexpected winners over recent years. The last six editions have seen a first-time champion. Across the last six seasons, that’s one more than the US Open and two more than both the Australia Open and Wimbledon.
The French Open is also the grand slam with the lowest-ranked winners across the past five years. Three have been ranked below the top 20 (#33 Barbora Krejickova in 2021, #54 Iga Swiatek in 2020, #47 Jelena Ostapenko in 2017), a total more than the US Open (2), Australian Open (0) and Wimbledon (0) across the same time frame.
However, individually the lowest-ranked player to win a grand slam during this time span was of course Emma Raducanu, world no. 150 and a wild card entrant at the 2021 US Open.
4. Winners Key for Raducanu
Raducanu will make another grand slam debut having played fewer than ten WTA-tour level matches on that respective surface. After winning her maiden title at the US Open last year having played just one WTA-level match on a hard court (in San Jose), the Brit appears in a clay-court grand slam with five wins and four defeats on that surface, including Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers, and a quarter-final in Stuttgart is her best result to date.
If she’s to be successful in Paris, her ability to strike winners will be crucial. Promisingly, she’s had her best performances in that regard in Madrid (58) and Stuttgart (57), both tournaments on clay.
5. Muguruza and Krejcikova’s Recent Struggles
2016 Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza has not played a final on clay since winning in Paris six years ago. The last time the Spaniard won three matches in a row was on her way to last year’s WTA Finals title in Guadalajara. In 2022, she reached the quarter-finals in Doha and Sydney, both on hard court, while her record is 7-8 overall and 2-4 on clay, having failed to pass the second both in both Madrid and Rome.
What’s maybe more concerning is that all her losses this season have come against players ranked below her.
Current world no. 2 and Roland Garros champion, Barbora Krejcikova will attempt to be the first player to defend the title at the French Open since Justine Henin, who lifted the trophy from 2005 to 2007. The Czech has not played a single clay-court match this season – her last one was this time last year in Paris, where she dropped only three sets on the way to the singles title. Since winning there, she only reached one final (Sydney, in 2022) and has not played since Doha, in February, due to an elbow injury. She had a 9-4 record before stopping to play.
Bonus: Former No. 1’s Out to Spoil the Party
Two former world no. 1 players in this draw are Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. A champion in Paris in 2018 and the last one to win the title while being world no. 1, Halep reached the quarter-finals in Madrid this season and has been climbing up the rankings since January. She started the year as world no. 27 and is now ranked 19.
Osaka has only played one clay-court tournament so far, in Madrid, where she lost in the second round, but her run at the Miami Open, losing to Iga Swiatek in the final, was her best since she won the 2021 Australian Open, winning six matches in a row (including walkovers).