Five players to watch as the French Open begins

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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.