Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown

Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown


The world number one could also become the first player to lift 3 successive women's titles in Paris

Follow on
Follow us on Google News

Paris (AFP) – Iga Swiatek said she is "confident" ahead of her bid to become only the fourth woman to win four Roland Garros singles titles in the Open era.

The world number one could also become the first player to lift three successive women's titles in Paris since Justine Henin in 2007 when the French Open gets underway on Sunday.

Swiatek is a strong favourite after dominating on clay again this season, arriving in Paris off the back of WTA 1000 victories in Madrid and Rome. The only female player in history to complete a Madrid-Rome-Roland Garros treble in the same season is Serena Williams.

But Swiatek, who faces French qualifier Leolia Jeanjean in the first round, is not daunted by what she could achieve. "I would lie if I would say I'm not nervous, because everybody is, I think," Swiatek told reporters on Friday.

"There is a lot of pressure, especially when you play well and you already know that you can achieve this step, people are expecting it to happen again and again and again.

"So there is pressure, but I wouldn't say I'm more nervous than usual... I'm also pretty confident with how I'm playing right now and with the work we have been doing."

The 22-year-old Pole has plenty of years ahead of her to chase records but is wasting little time -- her four WTA 1000 titles this season have taken her career total to 10. That is already only 13 short of Serena Williams' all-time record.

With four Grand Slam titles, Swiatek has not struggled to translate that form to the major tournaments in the past. Swiatek is aiming to join Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Henin in lifting the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen four times in the Open era.

The biggest obstacle standing in her way is Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian missed three match points before losing to Swiatek in a thrilling Madrid final and will be hoping to get another crack at her rival after a one-sided loss in Rome.

Sabalenka, the two-time reigning Australian Open champion, has reached at least the semi-finals in each of the past six Grand Slam events.

She is also the only woman to beat Swiatek in a final on clay -- in Madrid last year -- since the Pole lost her first WTA title decider as a teenager in 2019 at a low-key event in Switzerland.

Swiatek said she did not think her or Sabalenka were side-tracked by their rivalry.

"We'll see if it's going to go into the history books, because honestly, I don't think either I or Aryna are focusing on that," she added.

"But for sure this rivalry is exciting for the fans... . I think it's also pushing me to become a better and better player, so I think we both kind of need each other to grow."

Swiatek 'motivates' Sabalenka

Sabalenka has an 8-3 losing record against Swiatek, but insisted after Rome that she wanted to face her again in Paris.

"She (Swiatek) definitely motivates me a lot to get better, and I think I improve so many things just because of her," said the world number two, who opens her campaign against Russian teenager Erika Andreeva.

"She kind of like pointed on the things I wasn't good at, and motivated me to get better at. "I think it's just amazing what we are doing, and I really hope we can keep doing the same or even better."

Sabalenka had never even reached the second week at Roland Garros until last year, when she was knocked out by Karolina Muchova in the semis. "I'm definitely not the favourite probably there," she said after the Rome Open final.

"But at the same time I do feel that I can actually go for it. "It's 50/50, you know? But I prefer to be underdog. I really hope I'm going to make it to the final and I really hope I'll be able to get that win, if it's Iga or not."

Elena Rybakina, the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this year, was being touted as part of a new 'big three' 12 months ago.

But the Kazakh has failed to make the last four at a Slam since losing the 2023 Australian Open final to Sabalenka and has been passed in the rankings by US Open champion Coco Gauff.

American Gauff, playing in a major for the first time since turning 20, will be hoping to go one better than when she lost the 2022 French Open showpiece to Swiatek.

Third seed Gauff faces Russian qualifier Julia Avdeeva in the first round, while Rybakina takes on Belgium's Greet Minnen.