Iga Swiatek - Indian Wells 2024

Roland Garros WTA preview: Can anyone stop Iga Swiatek forging Nadal-like dominance?

Ahead of her maiden Roland Garros semi-final in 2020, the then-teenage and fresh-faced Iga Swiatek made a confession to the assembled pressed: “[Rafael Nadal] is my favourite player. He was the only player I watched when I was younger.” Little wonder, then, that dominance of the French Open and clay court tennis appear to be key markers for her when judging success.

Like Nadal, Swiatek is now a multi-surface major winner and, again like the Spaniard, her huge game is far from restricted to just clay. However, there can also be little doubt that red dirt is the surface upon which the Pole feels most at home.

Going into the 2024 European clay swing, Swiatek boasts in veritably Nadalian win percentage on the surface of 87.6%. That’s not quite Nadal level (91.3%), but it’s certainly comparable. For context, it’s a better win percentage than Novak Djokovic boasts on hardcourts (85.1%) and slightly better than Roger Federer achieved on grass (86.9%). Obviously, those three legends did it for a considerably longer period of time, and had each other to beat, but Swiatek’s numbers are deeply impressive in their own right.

It will surprise no one, then, that she heads to Paris as a strong favourite to win what would be a fourth title in just six appearances at Roland Garros.

Indeed, as things stand, only two players have ever beaten Swiatek on the red dirt of the French capital – Simona Halep in 2019 and Maria Sakkari in 2021. Even more remarkably, just five players in total have been able to even win a set against Swiatek at the French Open, which is roughly half the number of players she has bageled there. If Nadal had not redefined what Parisian tennis dominance looks like, Swiatek’s record at the tournament would surely be receiving much more admiring attention.

The question going into the French Open, then, is not so much who will win and much more a case of who is actually capable of stopping Iga Swiatek. You would generally look at the other dominant player on the WTA Tour right now, Aryna Sabalenka, but if you do you may not find all that much encouragement.

Sabalenka has reached three successive Grand Slam finals on hardcourts, winning two of them, but her clay record suggests her game is not built for it. Like Daniil Medvedev, Sabalenka finds success hitting hard and hitting flat, and so a clay surface is always going to a greater source of frustration than dominance. In simple terms, while hardcourt can be the school yard, clay is the chess club yard – it is the kingdom of the brainy, not the bully.

Coco Gauff has certainly proven she has the court-smarts to succeed on clay, with her going to the quarterfinals or further in each of the last three years. However, two of those charges were ended by Swiatek in largely dominant fashion, so she would need to find a way to bridge that gulf if she is going to do any better this time around. Barbora Krejčíková, the 2021 champion and a perpetual pest to favourites at majors, is perhaps the one player you’d back to match Swiatek on clay from a cerebral point of view on clay. Her technical game is weaker, but she looks better equipped than most to cause the pole some serious problems.

We mustn’t forget Elena Rybakina either. She surprisingly flopped at the Australian Open by exiting in the second round, although for context Swiatek only managed to go one further in Melbourne. While Rybakina’s big serve will be negated by the slower courts in Paris, she has matured into an all-surface force and won the WTA 1000 in Rome last year, albeit with the help of three walkovers.

But ultimately, all eyes will be on Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros. If she wins, a new era of clay dominance may be set to immediately follow the end of Rafael Nadal’s career. If she loses, new and exciting rivalries may emerge.

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.