The streak of 28 consecutive victories accumulated by the new No. 1 in the WTA ranking has been surpassed by only three women since 2000 – Venus Williams (35 in 2000), Serena Williams (34 in 2013) and Justine Henin (32 in 2008), all former No. 1, all holders of several Grand Slam titles.
Fairly heady company.
“Well, I know the pressure will come for sure, and I know on clay maybe the media will call me the favourite,” said 2020 Roland-Garros champion Swiatek. whose first-round match against 121st-ranked Lesia Tsurenko is scheduled for Monday.
“But honestly I don’t know what to expect because it’s the first time I’ve been in a position like this and I’m the world number one,” Swiatek said. “For sure, what I know is that I’m going to have fun on clay. … I just always have more motivation before Roland Garros, so I will use it, for sure.
The 20-year-old Polish has won her last five tournaments and 42 of her last 43 sets.
“She’s definitely setting a precedent right now,” said 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. “For me, at least, it’s very motivating.”
Everyone in tennis, it seems, takes notice.
“She’s cool. She is natural. She is young,” said 13-time Roland-Garros winner Rafael Nadal. “The way she’s been playing this year seems unstoppable.”
Probably not exactly unstoppable, of course. Swiatek therefore knows that this race will not last forever.
If this continues for seven more matches in just under two weeks, the first Polish tennis player to be ranked No. 1 and win a Grand Slam singles title will own a second.
“I’m aware that this streak is something that could end soon, so I don’t want to be heartbroken when it does,” Swiatek said. “I think being aware of that is pretty healthy.”
Here are some other things to know about the second major tournament of the year:
CHAMPION IN DEFENSE
Last year’s champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, was unsure whether she could defend her title due to a right elbow injury that has sidelined her since February.
“I’m not expecting much,” said Krejcikova, who is No. 2 in the rankings after competing at the 2021 French Open at No. 33. “Right now I feel healthy. I have to knock on wood to feel good, plus I think mentally I’m really recharged.
The male group is about as unbalanced as it gets: The top half of the table contains the defending champion and No. 1 seed, Novak Djokovic; Rafael Nadal, 13 times champion; the 19-year-old Spaniard with the best season of any man, Carlos Alcaraz; and number 3 Alexander Zverev.
“Pretty stacked,” was Zverev’s take. “I think the Roland Garros champion will probably be in the top half.”
Alcaraz is the only member of this quartet who will play on Sunday; the other three are scheduled for Monday matches.
One of the beneficiaries of how it all turned out: No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, second a year ago and in the bottom half of the table this time.
THE COVID-19 SITUATION
After three pandemic-induced closures, restrictions have been eased in France, so after limited attendance a year ago due to coronavirus concerns, crowds will be back at Roland Garros in full force – and, if the rest of Paris is an indication, without masks.
Being unvaccinated against COVID-19 is not an obstacle to traveling to France, as long as foreigners pass a test, so Djokovic will be competing, unlike the Australian Open in January, when he was expelled from this country because he received no beatings.
WHO IS MISSING?
Serena Williams, who hasn’t played since her injury at Wimbledon last year, and her sister, Venus, who last competed in Chicago in August, are not part of the women’s group. Nor is the 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, whose season is over with a knee injury. Among those not on the men’s pitch are Roger Federer, who has been out since last July; 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, who underwent wrist surgery; and two players who pride themselves on their ability to entertain, Nick Kyrgios and Gael Monfils.
Two 37-year-old Frenchmen who reached the top 10 of the ranking say goodbye: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, vice-champion of the 2008 Australian Open, and Gilles Simon. This is Tsonga’s last tournament; Simon retires after the season.
“I just feel lucky, because I got to live this life,” Tsonga said.
Women’s matches that go 6-all in a third set and men’s matches that go 6-all in a fifth will end in first-to-10-point ties. It’s the first time tiebreakers will be used at Roland Garros, part of a deal announced in March for all Grand Slam tournaments to adopt the same system.
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