French Open 2021: The women’s champion could come from anywhere

Defending champion Iga Swiatek looks to become the first woman in 14 years to win back to back French Open titles. (Picture: Roland Garros)

The women’s singles at the French Open has not had a back to back champion in 14 years. Could Iga Swiatek be the one to do it, or will a new face claim the title at Roland Garros in 2021?

The women’s singles in Paris has been one of the hardest majors to pick a winner at for the past few years and 2021 will be no exception. Simona Halep is out due to injury, while Ash Barty and Swiatek are the most threatening of the women’s entries.

There will be plenty of players looking for their maiden French Open title in this year’s rendition.

Ashleigh Barty – 1st Seed

It’s been two years since tennis fans have seen Ash Barty at Roland Garros when she took home her maiden Grand Slam title and claimed the world number one ranking for the first time in her career. After an ideal run in on clay, Barty looks comfortable and ready to face anyone to take back the title.

The Australian’s clay season only has two negatives to take away from it so far, a loss to Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid Open final and a retirement at the Italian Open to American Coco Gauff.

Before the Madrid Open final, Barty racked up 16 straight wins on red clay and claimed her first Stuttgart Open title.

Barty will have a long road to the final, facing two potential threats in the fourth round from Americans Gauff and Jennifer Brady. Fifth seed Elina Svitolina looms as a likely quarter-final opponent.

Should Barty make it through to the semi-final all signs point to a showdown against defending Champion Iga Swiatek. She’ll start her French Open journey against Bernarda Pera on Monday, Day 2 of the tournament.

Iga Swiatek – 8th Seed

The 19-year-old sensation is primed to become the first women’s singles player to defend their French Open title since Justine Henin’s three-peat in 2007.

There was no better indication that Swiatek is playing better than she did in 2020 than her dominant Italian Open.

Swiatek won all but one match in straight sets in Rome, only dropping the first set against Barbora Krejčíková in the third round. The final against Karolína Plíšková cemented Swiatek as the in-form player heading into Roland Garros as she defeated the world number nine, 6-0 6-0.

The eighth seed has a first round match against Kaja Juvan, but she’ll also be keeping an eye out for the fourth round clash against dark horse Garbine Muguruza.

Aryna Sabalenka – 3rd Seed

None of the top players have had to deal with Ash Barty in a final in 2021 more than Aryna Sabalenka, also being the first player to beat Barty on red clay this year at the Madrid Open.

The Belarusian is in career-best form this year, not bowing out before the third round in any tournaments so far. The one black mark would be the shock third-round exit against Coco Gauff in Rome, leaving some concerned that Sabalenka’s playing style cannot be adjusted for the slower Paris court.

With a week and a half to prepare, Sabalenka has had plenty of time to adjust and looks more comfortable in practice than she did at the Italian Open.

She’ll face qualifier Ana Konjuh in the first round and from then on Sabalenka will have a comfortable ride to the quarter-finals, where she’ll likely go up against either Petra Kvitova or Serena Williams.

Sabalenka is the heavy favourite to reach the final from the bottom half of the draw, but there’s a slew of road bumps waiting for her along the way.

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Garbine Muguruza – 12th Seed

You always know it’s clay court season when a player outside the top ten is considered a good chance of taking home the silverware. The French Open has been Muguruza’s favoured Grand Slam for quite some time, making the second week of the tournament every year between 2014-2019, and winning the top honours in 2016.

The Spaniard may have dismissed her own chances with a short clay court season, underperforming in the two tournaments she played in. However, if she can hit the form she was in earlier this year, she’ll threaten the defending champion come the fourth round.

Muguruza will need to settle early against first round opponent Marta Kostyuk, not wanting to hand the world number 77 her first French Open victory.

Naomi Osaka – 2nd Seed

Naomi Osaka might not have the love for clay that the other contenders do, but the world number two has a point to prove this year after a disappointing lead up to the Grand Slam.

As a champion on the hardcourt, Osaka now needs to prove she’s an all-court player rather than a specialist.

If anything is lacking for the second seed, it’s confidence. A deep run into the French Open will go a long way in giving her that extra boost as she faces an easier bracket than some of her other opponents.

If the 23-year-old can reach the fourth round, it will be a career best at a non-hardcourt major. Osaka will expect more than that out of herself, trying to capitalise on her preferred early time slots and finishing off her early opponents in little time at all.

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About Jacqui Dodd 129 Articles
Jacqui is a journalist based in Melbourne. A fan of all things sports she primarily focuses on Olympics and Tennis news. You can hear her on The Inner Sanctum's Olympics podcast, Ascending Olympus.

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