Who’s Taking Roland Garros? — Pre-Paris quotes

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 28, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! The fact that we enter June this week is quite the plot twist, but that fortunately means it’s Roland Garros time! Last year, Iga Swiatek captured her second consecutive and third overall title in Paris and is the hot favorite to take it all after capturing Madrid and Rome back-to-back.

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Truthfully, it’s hard imagining anyone stopping Swiatek this fortnight. Of course, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina are the most plausible choices. Rybakina upset Swiatek in the Stuttgart quarterfinals for the Pole’s lone loss on clay, while Sabalenka did hold championship points in their Madrid battle. In the top half, Swiatek has a juicy and fun matchup with Naomi Osaka, but other than that, her road to the quarterfinals seems a bit easy. Her projected seed there is No. 5 Marketa Vondrousova, who I think will be an early casualty. Third-seeded Coco Gauff looked impressive in her opening round win, while 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko is another player that has upset Swiatek on the Grand Slam stage and can seriously knock anyone else off the court. The Latvian is my darkhorse this fortnight and a potential quarterfinal with Gauff would be the one I would pencil in now.

On the bottom half, Sabalenka seems to be in a league on her own, though Rybakina awaits in the semifinals. Picking the Kazakh is always a stable choice, however it depends if her health can stay steady. Last year, she withdrew due to a viral illness — something that has knocked her out before/during a few tournaments so she continues to be a question mark. Tuesday has some fun matchups with Zheng Qinwen taking on a retiring Alize Cornet, while 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens has a tricky opener with Yulia Putintseva in a rematch from the Rome opener two weeks ago. Potential upsets to possibly zero in on? Maria Lourdes Carle over No. 25 Elise Mertens, Magdalena Frech over No. 10 Daria Kasatkina and most likely, Paula Badosa over No. 26 Katie Boulter.

Before I do my predictions, I do want to note that I did my draw before play started on Sunday and some upsets have already happened — most notably No. 6 seed Maria Sakkari. :

Round of 16
(1) Iga Swiatek def. (16) Ekaterina Alexandrova
(11) Danielle Collins def. (5) Marketa Vondrousova
(3) Coco Gauff def. (13) Beatriz Haddad Maia
(9) Jelena Ostapenko def. (8) Ons Jabeur
(7) Zheng Qinwen def. (12) Jasmine Paolini
(4) Elena Rybakina def. (20) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(19) Victoria Azarenka def. (6) Maria Sakkari
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (14) Madison Keys

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (11) Danielle Collins
(3) Coco Gauff def. (9) Jelena Ostapenko
(4) Elena Rybakina def. (7) Zheng Qinwen
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (19) Victoria Azarenka

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (3) Coco Gauff
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (4) Elena Rybakina

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (2) Aryna Sabalenka

Is it safe to have the Top 4 in the semifinals? Perhaps, but these core four are the most stable and consistent playmakers in women’s tennis currently. I’d love for Danielle Collins or Jelena Ostapenko to shake things up, but I just can’t see it happening in this tournament.

Sabalenka is the only one that can knock Swiatek off her throne, I think. She would need to simply outpower the World No. 1, but also hope she has an off-day and I’m not so sure it can be done for a full championship in front of the Parisian crowd.

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This week in women’s tennis

Madison Keys downed Danielle Collins to win her first WTA title on red clay at the Internationaux de Strasbourg, while Cristina Bucsa and Monica Niculescu edged out Asia Muhammad and Aldila Sutjiadi to win the doubles title.

In Rabat, Peyton Stearns won her first WTA singles title in an epic week that saw her down 5-0 in the third set of her opener and then a 3.25 hour marathon in the semis. She knocked out Mayar Sherif in a battle of former NCAA players, while Irina Khromacheva and Yana Sizikova upset Anna Danilina and Xu Yifan to take the doubles crown.

Back in action after ten months away, Bianca Andreescu has a refreshed mind on court thanks to various retreats and mindfulness habits she’s created.

Do we have Zendaya and Challengers to thank for a mainstream “resurgence” in tennis?

Caroline Garcia opened up about the struggles she’s faced in her career as she continues her new podcast, while Sloane Stephens sat with retired basketball star and current coach Sydney Carter on hers.

Finding her career-best form, Marta Kostyuk sat with WTA Insider for a podcast episode that discussed the massive changes to achieve that.

Alexa Noel of the University of Miami captured the NCAA Women’s Division I Singles title with a win over Anastasiia Lopata, while Aysegul Mert and Dasha Vidmanova outlasted Savannah Broadus and Janice Tjen to take the doubles. Expect Noel to be on the list of US Open wildcards this summer as a result of her win.

Big shout out to Coco Gauff for reminding people the importance of registering to vote and going to the polls.

Venus Williams will be getting the Barbie treatment as Mattel looks to honor female athletes for their contribution to sport.

Six players will make their Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros including Julia Avdeeva, who had never played in Slam qualifying until last week.

Jelena Ostapenko will take part in the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham, where it was also announced Caroline Wozniacki will receive a wildcard.

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Five at The IX: Roland Garros Media Day

Q. I want to ask you who is the more difficult opponent for you: Iga Swiatek or maybe Aryna Sabalenka?

ELENA RYBAKINA: Well, I would say Aryna. We play a lot of tough matches, and she’s very aggressive. She has good power. And with Iga I feel like I have more dominant in the, just, game by my power over Iga. With Aryna, it’s tougher.

Q. A couple disappointments this year for you where you weren’t able to defend titles because of illness. I know in Indian Wells it took a little while for you to come back. Was it easier this time? Have you been practicing and progressing and feeling healthy for a while now?

ELENA RYBAKINA: Of course now I’m feeling much better, and it’s always pity to miss these big tournaments. But if the health issues are there, then you cannot do anything.

Q. Now that you’re what, about five months into this comeback, wonder if you can compare the level of the competition now versus when you were coming up as a player, first, and who you were confronting. Because it seems like you have a lot of hard matches these days. Curious if you felt that way in your younger years.

NAOMI OSAKA: I do feel like I felt that way in my younger years, too, but I think now I just haven’t played as many matches. But also, my mentality is a lot different. I think when I was younger, I also used to play a lot of three-set matches, so maybe the matches look different now, but I don’t think you can play a tennis match that isn’t tough, so that’s kind of my answer.

Q. In your past days you were as dominant as Iga Swiatek and Sabalenka right now. How far away do you think you are from that level that especially Iga brings out basically every tournament?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I feel like you would have to tell me that (smiling). I think that’s kind of more of an outside perspective. For me, I’m so focused on what I’m doing. And I know, like, they’re playing incredible tennis and they’re doing it almost always. And I was never the type of player to do that, anyways.

So I’m looking at them as an inspiration, and I don’t know. This part of my journey, I’m not really comparing myself right now. Maybe later when I get more confident and towards the level that I want, maybe on hard court I can start doing that, but as of right now, I really feel like I’m really just kind of learning again.

Q. We spoke to Katie yesterday. She said you two are quite good friends. You speak quite a lot. Can you tell us the genesis of your relationship and have you spoken about various injury situations?

PAULA BADOSA: Yeah, I mean, when I was injured, she was checking on me. Of course I think a long time ago she had a similar injury.

So we are good friends. She’s a nice person. Really happy how she started the year. I think she’s playing very well. She’s a dangerous player. Really aggressive. So it’s going to be a tough match.

Yeah, we have a good relationship, and I hope Tuesday we can both bring the best out of it, and we have a good battle there.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon