By Hanya El Ghetany, Nick Carter, Myles David, and Owen Lewis
After our panel ranking of the ATP, we had to try looking at who the WTA contenders are at this year’s Roland Garros. In retrospect, doing a top twenty would have been easier. Despite there being one clear favourite, the battle for second is wide open (or even first should the leader falter). Once again we start from Number Ten:
10. Barbora Krejčíková (Nick)
The competition for this spot was fierce. We considered Anhelina Kalinina, Belinda Bencic, Danielle Collins, Jil Teichmann, Daria Kasatkina and of course Emma Raducanu. Barbora Krejčíková shouldn’t be that wild a pick given she’s defending the title. However, she is playing for the first time since February due to injury and has not played a match on clay in 2022. It seems unlikely she’ll be the first back-to-back women’s Roland Garros champion since Justine Henin, but she should still go deep. The defending champion has traditionally reached at least the fourth round in Paris and by then perhaps Krejčíková will have found her feet. When she’s at her best, she is the benchmark everyone has to rise above to be a true contender.
9. Bianca Andreescu (Owen)
Andreescu, if she plays at her best, could surely jump a few spots on this list. Even early in her return from injury, she’s been playing great tennis. Merely making Iga Świątek sweat is an accomplishment at this point, and Andreescu pushed her all the way to a tiebreak in Rome. Andreescu’s game is simply a delight. She has it all – offense, defense, variety (cheeky slices from both forehand and backhand), and a champion’s mindset. She’s won a major and has more experience than several other youngsters on the WTA, even with her recurring injuries. Her best level is nothing short of terrifying – it makes her draw, which is decent, seem almost irrelevant. While other players have built a better base in 2022 and might be more in-form, Andreescu’s best tennis is better than almost all of theirs. Clay isn’t her best surface, but if that top-level tennis shows up, she will be a title contender.
8. Jessica Pegula (Owen)
Pegula is in the Badosa mold – a solid, incredibly well-rounded player who can hit heavy groundstrokes from anywhere on the court, off both wings. Though it brings me pain to type this, she was sensational in her win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in Madrid. The match was physically grueling, and she saw a 5-1, ad-in first set lead evaporate to 5-4, but kept cool and kept firing missiles to big targets. While she didn’t back up her runner-up Madrid performance in Rome, a loss to Sabalenka is nothing to be ashamed of. Her draw is manageable. The highest seed in her quarter is Karolina Plíšková, who doesn’t take to clay as easily as other surfaces. Pegula tends to do a great job of beating the players she should beat, so it’s easy to see her in the later rounds. She’ll probably run into Świątek if she makes the semifinals, at which point it’s difficult to see her run continuing. She’s more of a safe bet to go deep than a dark horse pick to win the whole thing.
7. Aryna Sabalenka (Owen)
Sabalenka struggled at the majors for a while, but shattered the ice with runs to the semifinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year (she was even close to winning both those matches). She’s one of the most powerful players around. With clay giving her time to set up her massive groundstrokes, Sabalenka will be a handful for anyone. Her recent run to the Rome semifinals, which included wins over Pegula and Anisimova, who are also on this list, was encouraging. It came to an end with a lopsided loss to Iga Świątek, but Sabalenka is one of dozens of players who have to deal with the young Pole’s monstrous form. If Sabalenka can keep the double faults to a relative minimum – though she’s developed a real affinity for winning despite her serve going haywire – she’ll go deep.
6. Maria Sakkari (Nick)
Maria Sakkari was within one point of the Roland Garros final in 2021. Realistically, given how spent Pavlyuchenkova was in the deciding match, had Sakkari converted against Krejčíková in their epic battle she probably would have lifted the trophy. Sakkari is a hard player to back to win an event given she has only won one career title and seems to have a block once she wins four or five consecutive matches. But, you cannot doubt her clay-court prowess. Hell, she beat Świątek at Roland Garros last year. This season, she was doing well in Stuttgart before having to pull out injured, which likely affected her in Madrid. She got her mojo back in Rome, reaching the quarterfinals before another gut-wrenching loss, this time to Ons Jabeur (Sakkari was up 6-1, 5-2, 30-love). Sakkari clearly has the talent and fighting spirit to succeed. If she can finally unlock it at the critical stage of a major, then Roland Garros seems the natural place for this to happen.
5. Amanda Anisimova (Myles)
Amanda Anisimova has been largely touted as the next “big thing” in tennis. In large part due to her surprise run to the 2019 Roland Garros semi-final, a lot of stock was bought into the fact that she would be challenging for major titles in the future. There have been a few curve balls thrown her way while on the ascent upwards though. In the fall of 2019, she was dealt a devastatingly tough blow with the passing of her father and admittedly took some time off to reset. By the time the season ended in 2021 her ranking had slipped well beyond the top 70 in the world and pundits were questioning if they had seen the best of the bright athlete from New Jersey. Thankfully, when the tour headed to Australia at the top of this season Anisimova found a rich vein of form and brought her brilliant ball striking, effortless timing, and new Wilson racquet into a second career WTA title at the Melbourne 2 Australian Open warm up tournament. The rest of her 2022 season has been remarkably consistent heading into the second major tournament of the year. A semi-final showing in Charleston and back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in Madrid and Rome make her a name to watch out for in the draw. A familiar foe awaits her in the first round of Roland Garros — the same opponent she sent home during the round of 16 at the Australian Open, Naomi Osaka. Anisimova saved match points in that heavy hitting clash and will hope for some of that same magic when they face off again. Anisimova sits in the section of the draw anchored by #4 seed Maria Sakkari and filled with other dangerous threats like unseeded Bianca Andreescu and Karolina Muchova. Should she hold true to the form that has seen her ranking sit just seven spots away from her career high of 21, Roland Garros could once again prove to be a prosperous stomping ground for the 20-year-old.
4. Paula Badosa (Owen)
Badosa has embarked on one of the more impressive improvement arcs we’ve seen in the past several years of tennis. In 2021, she started going deep at tournament after tournament, capping the year with a massive title at Indian Wells. What was most striking about Badosa’s win was the way she went for her shots in the deciding-set tiebreak against Azarenka. She played like a seasoned veteran, yet it was her first big final. She is just 24, she is ranked #3 in the world, and she had a good run at Roland Garros last year (she made the quarterfinals and lost a very tight 8-6-in-the-third match against Tamara Zidanšek). There are no evident flaws in Badosa’s very well-rounded game. She has struggled physically in the past – at the Australian Open, for instance, when she was unable to recover from a grueling battle with Marta Kostyuk in time for a fourth-rounder against the red-hot Madison Keys. Clay makes economical wins difficult, but Badosa may not want to play too many three-setters (though the Parisian conditions are far easier than those in Melbourne). Her consistency makes her an unlikely candidate to go out early, and if she can find her best tennis late, she can absolutely go all the way.
3. Simona Halep (Owen)
Simona Halep loves Roland-Garros. It’s where she won her very first major title, and she made finals in 2014 and 2017 even before that. Her phenomenal defense and consistency shine on the red clay, with only the biggest of hitters usually able to take her out. Though Halep has had to deal with some injuries this year, her form has been good – she played Świątek tough in Miami (who is beginning to look invincible); she made the quarterfinals in Madrid. Halep’s draw is difficult. She’s slated to play Świątek, the overwhelming favorite, in the fourth round (or the “eighth final,” as Roland-Garros puts it on their draw sheet). That will likely end badly for Halep. Świątek hasn’t lost since February and has won two of her last three matches against Halep. If for whatever reason that match doesn’t happen, though, or if Halep manages to beat Świątek, I like her chances to go all the way. She’ll likely play herself into form, and a giant-killing win over Świątek would give her an ocean of confidence. Halep will be a tough out no matter what.
2. Ons Jabeur (Hanya)
Jabeur is looking to end her clay season on a high note. There is a reason why Jabeur is everyone’s top contender after Iga (spoilers!). Jabeur played a total of 20 matches this season on clay. Her numbers are excellent; she’s compiled a 17-3 record. She lost the Charleston final to Bencic, and the Stuttgart quarterfinal to Badosa. Since then, Jabeur has been on a winning streak and took home her first 1000-level masters in winning Madrid. She made it to the Rome final the following week losing to the world’s number one. I honestly don’t think that anyone would have put Jabeur as a serious contender at Roland Garros if it hadn’t been for her solid clay season run, but she’s vaulted herself into the top of the favorites list quickly. Regarding her draw, I don’t see any potential problems facing Jabeur till the quarterfinals where she would likely play Andreescu. There is a possibility of Jabeur meeting Raducanu in the round of 16 and given both ladies’ performance this season, I think it will be an easy win for Jabeur. If Jabeur keeps up her fight, we could potentially see a remake of the Rome final with Ons and Iga once again facing each other in the final. The question everyone will be asking is: will Jabeur avenge her Rome loss and take home her first major championship or will Iga make it two French Open wins?
1. Iga Swiatek (Nick)
This should come as no surprise to anyone. Iga Świątek is the world number one, a former Roland Garros champion and is on a mammoth 28-match winning streak. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she has only lost six WTA Tour matches on clay in her career, has only lost to top ten players on this surface since 2020, and is unbeaten on the dirt in 2022. She has been the favourite for the title before though, in 2021, and fell in the quarterfinals to Maria Sakkari. That loss to Sakkari was very strange, although it has been put down to her running out of gas I’m still not sure that was the whole story. In any case, I think only a blip like that could stop her winning Roland Garros in 2022, which is not impossible. However, that’s all on her and right now Iga Świątek feels unstoppable (to the point that she joked with Ons Jabeur during the latter’s press conference that the only way to beat her was to put something in her water bottle). She is the biggest women’s title favourite ahead of a major since Serena Williams was at her peak. It is doubtful anyone would be disappointed if she capped this amazing run with her second Roland Garros trophy, which is a likely possibility.