Roland Garros WTA preview: Expect the unexpected despite supreme Iga Swiatek form

What can we expect from Roland Garros this year on the WTA side. The unexpected, probably.

Since Serena Williams moved past her peak, predicting the WTA winners of Grand Slams has become next to impossible.

Unlike the best-of-five men's game, best-of-three matches are much more conducive for shocks, and that has been proven again and again in Grand Slams.

The French Open may be different this year, though, with one overwhelming favourite, but it would still be wise to take nothing for granted.

What's new at Roland Garros?

Nothing much ever really changes in tennis, but there are two new features to look out for at the 2022 French Open.

The first is night sessions. They debuted last year but with spectators not permitted due to Covid-19 restrictions, they didn't have much punch to them.

It will be very different this year, with a packed stadium expected for the night sessions. Temperatures will have cooled by then too, so the night matches will be much more arduous for the players and could throw up some surprises.

The other big change is that there will be tiebreakers in the final set now. Previously, deciding sets have just continued until there was a winner, but now there will be a first-to-ten super tiebreak to break the deadlock.

Can anyone stop Iga Swiatek?

Iga Swiatek, Italian Open

Many wondered where the WTA was headed when world number one Ashleigh Barty announced her shock retirement earlier this year.

Naomi Osaka has struggled mentally, Bianca Andreescu has struggled physically and Emma Raducanu is just not ready yet.

No one needed worry, though, as Iga Swiatek decided that this is now her time.

To be clear, Swiatek's rise is nothing to do with Barty's retirement. Even had the Australian stuck around, Swiatek would have still emerged. She goes into Roland Garros on the back of a 28 match winning streak. If she wins it, she will equal the all-time record currently held by Venus Williams.

She has won it before, too. The Pole came from nowhere, Raducanu style, to win the 2020 tournament in some real style, so she will have nothing to fear.

Is Emma Raducanu a contender?

Emma Raducanu injured at Italian Open

In truth, she probably isn't, no. Granted, people said that before the US Open last season too, but things are very different now.

This time she will not have the luxury of going unnoticed. She won't have the freedom to play her own game either, as coaches have no had the chance to scrutinise her game and devise ways to stop her.

She is also currently contesting her first ever clay season as a professional, and there are far older, wiser and frankly much better clay courters around than her.

There are also some serious questions over her fitness, with her forced out of the Italian Open with a back problem.

Can Emma Raducanu win Roland Garros? Well, she certainly has the talent. In many ways, though, it would be a US Open-level shock though if she did.

Can Barbora Krejikova defend?

No one really expected Barbora Krejikova to win the tournament last year, but she was a very worthy champion.

The Czech has only gone from strength to strength since and has now climbed to number two in the rankings. That is key, because it means she can't run in Swiatek until the final.

One thing that may work against her is that she has had relatively little tennis this season compared to others. She is also a keen doubles player, where she is also the world number two. In fact, Krejikova is the first player to be ranked number two in both singles and doubles at the same time since Serena Williams in 2010.

No woman has successfully defended the French Open singles title since Justine Henin in 2007, so history suggests Krejikova will be forced to relinquish her crown, but you never know.

The Paula Badosa threat

Paula Badosa is becoming a very difficult player to ignore on the WTA Tour and she must be considered a massive threat for Roland Garros.

Badosa is an interesting mix given she is American-born yet brought up in Spain, and she has made her presence felt by climbing to number three in the world rankings.

Like all Spanish players, she is extremely comfortable on clay and has already won a title on the surface in the Serbia Open last year.

She is yet to truly arrive in Grand Slams, though, with her quarter-final at the 2021 French Open her best performance to date.

Badosa certainly has the game to win the French Open although, as we have seen in the WTA before, best-of-three matches really can make for a free-for-all.

Ons Jabeur to continue her rise?

Ons Jabeur wins the Madrid Open

There is no doubt that the form player in the WTA right now, aside from Swiatek, is Ons Jabeur, and her rise has been brilliant to witness.

The Tunisian is a true trailblazer. She was already the first Arabic player to break into the WTA top ten, and last month she became the first African woman to win a WTA 1000 event when she took the title in Madrid.

As well as winning in Madrid, Jabeur has reached the finals in two other clay events this season - Charleston and Rome. In the later, it took Iga Swiatek to stop her from winning back-to-back WTA 1000s.

Like Badosa, Jabeur is yet to really deliver at a Grand Slam and she has never been beyond the quarter-final stage. At the French Open specifically, the fourth round is as far as she's been.

She is definitely one to keep a close eye on, though.

Will Serena Williams play the 2022 French Open?

Serena Williams has decided to stay way. She owns an apartment in Paris so she is usually a cert for the French Open when she is fit.

However, at 40 years old she has taken a big step back from tennis in the last two years, understandably. She has hinted that she will make her return at Wimbledon, though, so watch this space.

Other contenders

Simona Halep with French Open trophy

The WTA Grand Slams are always a bit of a free-for-all in truth, with anyone able to beat anyone else over three sets. That makes them especially hard to predict, but in fairness a lot more fun too.

Simona Halep is someone who should not be overlooked for a start. She has won it before and is now very experienced. She has struggled a little with injuries lately, bit she has just started working with Serena Williams' former coach Patrick Mouratoglou, so she's definitely going to be a threat.

Maria Sakkari has the game to win a Grand Slam, and it's only a matter of time before she does.

Also keep your eye on Garbine Muguruza. She's a Spaniard so happy on clay and she has won it before.

The truth is, though, that a WTA major can be won by anyone in the field, so it's probably best to expect the unexpected.

READ MORE: Roland Garros ATP preview: Rafael Nadal fitness and Novak Djokovic form the key questions

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