Iga Swiatek arrived at Roland-Garros as a favorite – and so far she has looked dominant. While Saturday’s game against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic didn’t go perfectly, Swiatek still easily qualified for the fourth round with a 6-3, 7-5 win to win her 31st consecutive match.
And while Swiatek probably didn’t need the help, she got it: she’s the only top-10 player left in the draw. With the first outings of defending champion Barbora Krejcikova and former champions Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep, as well as top 10 players Paula Badosa, Ons Jabeur, Anett Kontaveit and Maria Sakkari, many who could have given her the task more difficult are already out.
Of the remaining players, who could potentially give Swiatek the biggest challenge?
Our experts have made their choice.
Pam Shriver: Swiatek’s biggest danger is losing before the final against an opponent she doesn’t know, who can play first-strike tennis well from the first point to the last. Chinese star Zheng Qinwen, who beat former French Open champion Halep in the second round, has the power and momentum to create the big upset. Zheng has never played Swiatek, so there’s no scar tissue. The locker room would have noticed Swiatek’s erratic play in the second set against Kovinic. While Swiatek is the heavy favorite to win her second Roland Garros, we know that in sport there is never an automatic.
Drysdale Cliff: Leylah Fernandez. She has the fearlessness of youth and a Nadal-like focus. The problem is that this can only happen if they both reach the final.
D’Arcy-Maine: I don’t see anyone giving Swiatek much of a challenge in Paris at this stage. But tennis is far from immune to the unexpected so, you never know, right? After seeing how Jil Teichmann rallied to come back against Victoria Azarenka in a thriller that lasted over three hours in round three, it looks like she’d be more than ready for any challenge. Teichmann is soaring on clay, having raced to the semi-finals in Madrid and reaching the quarter-finals in Rome, and has recorded seven top-20 wins this season. Teichmann lost his only career game to Swiatek, in Adelaide in 2021, but has made significant progress since and may have never played better.
Bill Connell: From the simple perspective of who is playing really well right now, Anisimova and Coco Gauff are the two players to watch. Anisimova is 13-3 on clay this year and swept past Naomi Osaka and Donna Vekic before taking a break with the injury retirement of snake-bitten Karolina Muchova in the third set on Friday. Gauff, meanwhile, has only come to Paris 4-3 on clay this year but has faced two top-60 players in three matches and is yet to drop a set.
Each time a likely candidate emerged, she quickly succumbed to an upset, so we’ll see if these two young Americans can keep things going for another week. (And if they can keep it up, we’ll see if they can even put a dent in Swiatek’s armor.) But so far, so good.
Tom Hamilton: Well, the good news for Swiatek is that, among the many good things about her tennis right now, the last player who beat her is no longer at Roland Garros after Jelena Ostapenko’s exit on Thursday. But she’s so in the zone that you can’t imagine she fears anyone in world tennis anyway.
If I have to choose someone, I’ll go for Amanda Anisimova, who plays brilliant tennis here.
Simon Cambers: It’s so hard to watch her get beat up. She just has this amazing look on her right now. She beats players the same way Steffi Graf did, brutally. If tested, she simply steps up her game and eliminates her opponent. She’s improved so many parts of her game and her shots are heavier, not to mention the confidence all those wins have given her.
But, maybe someone like Sloane Stephens could get him in trouble. Someone who can absorb pressure, moves well and can force Swiatek to miss and maybe panic. Or maybe Fernandez, who was very impressive against Belinda Bencic. But it’s long.
Aishwarya Kumar: I’ll go with Stephens. She is a finalist of the French Open 2018. She is a Grand Slam winner (US Open 2017). She knows how to handle the big moments, and well, especially when the focus isn’t on her. And she is an unknown entity for Swiatek, who has never faced her in his career. Also, let’s not forget that the end of Stephens’ draw looks increasingly open with seeds like Angelique Kerber, Sakkari and Bencic eliminated in earlier rounds.