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Iga Swiatek French Open champion 2022

French Open: Iga Swiatek threatening to build serious Roland Garros legacy


At the mere mention of the words ‘French Open’ or ‘Roland Garros,’ it’s difficult to not think of Rafael Nadal. He has earned that through legacy, and it is one Iga Swiatek is hoping to replicate.

Since Serena Williams stepped away from tennis to become a mother in 2017, the WTA has been revelling in the ensuing free-for-all. It seemed like every major came with a new champion and you couldn’t rule anything out – as perfectly illustrated by Emma Raducanu winning the 2021 US Open.

That was a brilliant spectacle and the raw unpredictability made it essential viewing on those grounds alone, but from that chaos a new order is starting to emerge. Ashleigh Barty started it before she decided it wasn’t for her after all and walked away, but Iga Swiatek looks like she definitely wants it.

Swiatek openly identifies Rafael Nadal as her idol and she is already threatening to dominate Roland Garros in a way not too dissimilar to the Spaniard. She has won two of the last three French Open titles and done it with a panache and authority with which Nadal himself will be proud.

This time around it looks like she will be tougher to stop than ever. Since winning her last title on the red dirt of Paris she has become a multi-surface major winner by adding the US Open to her ever-growing list of honours too. That was a significant moment for her as it demolished any questions over her all-round game and no one should underestimate the value of that belief to her own confidence too.

It won’t be easy for her, though. WTA majors never are. You are, after all, only ever two bad sets away from elimination. I haven’t done the study myself, but one can’t help but wonder how many fewer majors Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer would have won had they not had the chance to turn a match around after two bad sets of tennis. A significant number, I’d wager.

Iga Swiatek French Open 2022

While Swiatek will happily cast herself in the role of Rafael Nadal, it remains to be seen who, if anyone, can become her Djokovic. Coco Gauff appears to be the top candidate right now, and there is already a budding rivalry there given they met in the final at Roland Garros last year.

Gauff feels older than her years but that is just because she was thrust into t he limelight at such a young age. She hasn’t become the child prodigy in the Monica Seles or Martina Hingis mould, but she remains one of the most intriguing talents on the WTA Tour.

Make no mistake, though. While we have grown accustomed to unpredictability in the WTA in recent years, the narrative feels like it has shifted from who could win it to who can stop Swiatek. There are no shortage of contenders, and a revitalised Aryna Sabalenka fresh off her Australian Open win may be the strongest among them.

Either way, the 2023 French Open looks like it’s going to provide a very interesting insight into what we can expect from the WTA in the coming years.

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