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Five players to watch as the French Open begins

Iga Świątek enters the French Open on a 28-match winning streak. (Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The second major of the tennis season begins Sunday at Roland Garros. While the French Open qualifiers are underway, the sport’s major stars are waiting and preparing for the two-week competition.

Ash Barty will not be present after announcing her retirement in the weeks following her win at the Australian Open. Since then, several stars have stepped into the spotlight, and none more forcefully than Iga Świątek, who is riding a 28-match win streak into Roland Garros.

With Świątek leading the way, Just Women’s Sports has the top five players to watch as the French Open kicks off.

Iga Świątek

There is no hotter player on tour heading into the French Open than Iga Świątek. Since Barty walked away from the game in March, the 20-year-old has firmly cemented herself as the No. 1 player in the world.

Just the second player to win four WTA 1000 trophies in a single season, after Serena Williams, Świątek most recently claimed her fifth consecutive title at the Italian Open over the weekend. She’s won every WTA 1000 event she’s competed in this season, earning trophies at Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome. During her 28-game win streak, she’s dropped just five sets. The run includes 12 bagel sets, in which Świątek won 6-0, and 10 sets won by a score of 6-1.

It’s not as if the quality of Świątek’s opponents has been lacking, either. Of the 28 matches, 21 were against players in the top 50, 11 were against those in the top 20 and seven against opponents in the top 10. The Polish player has been dominant in all facets, winning 72.6 percent of her service games and 55.3 percent of her return games. Świątek’s only Grand Slam title came at the French Open in 2020, and she enters this year’s tournament as the player to beat.

Ons Jabeur

Heading into the final of the Italian Open on Sunday, where Ons Jabeur lost to Świątek, the Tunisian had been on an 11-match win streak of her own. The match was Jabeur’s second straight finals appearance after she defeated Jessica Pegula to win the Madrid Open the week prior.

Jabeur is just the fourth player to appear in both the Madrid and Rome finals in the same year, joining Dinara Safina from 2009, Serena Williams from 2013 and Simona Halep from 2017.

Entering the French Open with a career-high No. 6 world ranking, Jabeur has found success with her serve, winning 70.2 percent of her service points. She’s also recorded 106 aces, good for third among the world’s top 10. With 17 victories on clay this year, the 27-year-old has more wins on the surface than anyone else on tour and will be in her element at the French Open.

Bianca Andreescu

There might not be a more exciting player outside of the top 50 than Andreescu based on the way she’s playing right now. The 2019 U.S. Open champion returned to action at Stuttgart in April, playing in her first professional-level tennis match in seven months, and has been on a tear since then. In Madrid, she dismantled reigning Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins in straight sets. Through her first three tournaments of the season, Andreescu has won six of her nine matches on clay — including a quarterfinal run in Rome, where she fell to Świątek.

The Canadian entered Stuttgart last month ranked No. 121 in the world and has since climbed her way back up the rankings. Rising 18 spots after her finish at Rome, Andreescu heads into Roland Garros as the No. 72-ranked player. She is also one of the few players who has seemingly given Świątek any trouble this season. The 21-year-old took Świątek to break point in their first set in Rome before falling in straight sets.

Andreescu, once the No. 4 player in the world, has returned to form since opting out of the Australian Open to focus on her mental health, and the French Open is a chance for her to make a statement.

Danielle Collins

Danielle Collins has had a strong start to the year, climbing into the top 10 for the first time after making the Australian Open final, where she lost to Ash Barty. She’s dropped a spot since premiering at No. 8 in the world, having dealt with some ups and downs. The American lost to Andreescu in straight sets in Madrid before turning around and defeating Simona Halep in straight sets in the Round of 32 at the Italian Open. 

While she’s better on hard surfaces, Collins has had notable wins on clay, including at the 2021 Palermo Ladies Open. In last year’s French Open, Collins made it to the Round of 32, where she lost to Serena Williams in straight sets. She’s gained momentum since then, taking a 5-1 lead over Barty in the second set of the Australian Open final before Barty came roaring back.

If Collins can find her groove at Roland Garros, she’ll have as good a shot as any top-10 player at taking home the trophy.

Simona Halep

This will be Simona Halep’s first major since she hired new coach Patrick Mouratoglou. The coach is best known for his 10-year stint with Serena Williams, during which time she won 10 Grand Slam titles and completed the career Golden Slam.

Halep has also had success in Grand Slams in the past decade. She won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019. The former world No. 1 also made the final of the Australian Open in 2018 and the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 2015.

The Romanian started the year off well, reaching the semifinals at Indian Wells before losing to Świątek in a close two-set match. She later withdrew from Miami, Charleston and the Fed Cup with a thigh injury. She made her return at the Madrid Open, where she took down world No. 3 Paula Badosa in straight sets in the Round of 32 and advanced to the quarterfinals. With those results, Halep soared back into the top 20 at No. 19.

If Halep continues to gain confidence as she works her way back from the injury, there’s no limit to what she can achieve in France.

Emma Hruby is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.

Midge Purce-Backed Docuseries ‘The Offseason’ to Drop This Summer

cast of the offseason nwsl reality series
'The Offseason' follows a group of NWSL stars as they prepare for preseason play. (The Offseason)

The Offseason, a reality series created by Gotham and USWNT star Midge Purce, has officially confirmed its streaming debut, Purce announced in Cannes on Tuesday.

The six-episode, half-hour docuseries will stream this summer on X, though a specific premiere date hasn't yet been set.

The Offseason was filmed in Miami, two weeks before the NWSL preseason. It's a crucial time for athletes, a period where they prepare to join their respective teams and compete for both starting and roster spots. Production designed all the facilities, bringing in top-tier trainers, masseuses, chefs, and gym equipment to create a high-level training environment, ensuring the players were in peak condition, per the show's release. Throughout filming, athletes lived together in one house — a reality TV conceit rife for entertainment.

The series follows a number of NWSL stars, including Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Maria Sanchez (Houston Dash), Lo’eau LaBonta (Kansas City Current), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash), Taylor Smith (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Nikki Stanton (OL Reign), Ally Watt (Orlando Pride), Taryn Torres (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Paige Nielsen (Angel City FC), and Ify Onumonu (Utah Royals).

"We wanted to create a series that truly captures the essence of what it means to be a professional athlete," said Purce. "This series has always been about more than just sports — it's about the human experience behind the athlete, as well."

The show promises a behind-the-scenes look at professional women's sports, teasing major life decisions, on-field tensions, and players taking stock of the environments they'll be entering once their preseason trip is over. The series delves into the real-life challenges faced by the athletes, including club trades, contract negotiations, burnout, and the relentless pressure from outsiders commenting on the players' personal lives.

The Offseason's official trailer, released on Tuesday, shows snippets of Hubly contemplating retirement, Sanchez joining the group after signing a high-profile contract, and a healthy amount of banter about on-field achievements.

The spirit of the series is reflected in its producers: Box To Box Films is known for their sports content (Drive to Survive, Break Point, Full Swing), whereas 32 Flavors is the creative force behind Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series was funded by Seven Seven Six, and executive produced by Purce.

Lilia Vu Wins Meijer LPGA Classic After Injury Return

lpga golfer Lilia Vu
Lilia Vu won in her first tournament in two months. (Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lilia Vu won her fifth LPGA Tour event on Sunday, taking home the Meijer LPGA Classic title in her first tournament appearance since March. 

The World No. 2 had been sidelined with a back injury, but returned with a vengeance last weekend. She began the final day eight shots back of leader Grace Kim, before surviving a three-hole playoff against Kim and former champion Lexi Thompson to take the title. 

"I think this is the most meaningful win," Vu told reporters. "Because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would ever play a tournament again without pain."

This was Vu's first Meijer LPGA Classic win, and a birdie on the third playoff hole helped secure it. A two-time major champion, she's now two for three in LPGA Tour playoffs. 

She said on Sunday that being unable to defend her title at the Chevron Championship was the "breaking point" in her season.

"Not being able to compete there really killed me," she said. "I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

"And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today."

Vu walked away with $450,000 in prize money from the $3 million overall purse.

Jabeur, Sabalenka Pull Out of Olympics Citing Health Concerns

tennis player Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka will not play in this year's Summer Olympics. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka joined a growing list of tennis stars opting out of the Olympics on Monday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 3, told reporters in Berlin that she was looking after her health while citing WTA tournament participation requirements. The Belarusian had struggled with a stomach bug during the French Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a major for the first time since 2022. 

Similarly, Jabeur referenced the health risks that come with a change in playing surfaces. The World No. 10 has been battling knee injuries this season, and lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Coco Gauff

"Especially with all the struggles I was having last month, I feel like I need to take care of my health… It’s too much with the scheduling," Sabalenka told reporters. "It’s just too much. I made the decision to take care of my health."

Players will spend the next few weeks playing on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, while the Olympics will be played on clay at Roland-Garros. 

"After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season," Jabeur tweeted on Monday. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics. I have always loved representing my country in any competition, However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice."

The two join Emma Raducanu in opting out of the Olympics. Raducanu — who has dealt with a number of injuries since her US Open win in 2021 — said the change in surface was "not worth the risk."

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

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