Former World No. 7 Marion Bartoli has stated that Iga Swiatek remains the favorite to defend her French Open title despite the pressure she faces from the likes of Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka.
The WTA tour has been dominated by the trio of Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina this season; the trio have won seven of the nine biggest titles so far in 2023. They also hold all four Grand Slam trophies right now and head into Roland Garros as the players with the best odds of winning the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup.
Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon champion, has named Swiatek as the “overwhelming favorite” to triumph at the Paris Major. The former French player, however, acknowledged that Sabalenka and Rybakina can give the World No. 1 a run for her money.
“Swiatek has to be able to do it over again,” Bartoli told Sky Sports. “She’s been able to win at Roland Garros on multiple occasions and she’s [the] overwhelming favorite this year, so it’s about dealing with the pressure.”
“You can see the stress in her face and stress-related shots when she faces a big-hitter like Sabalenka and Rybakina but for her it’s about being able to deal with the favorite tag and find a way to stay calm to counter-attack the power hitters,” she added.
“Totally different situation than last year” – Iga Swiatek on her rivalry with Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina
Many believe Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina are forming a new ‘Big-3’ in tennis, and are well placed to dominate the WTA tour for years to come.
Swiatek was in the midst of an unbelievable 37-match win streak last season during her French Open title run. But she has stumbled a little this year, with injuries hampering her progress on occasion.
The 21-year-old has reached four finals this year, winning two of them – the WTA 500 titles in Doha and Stuttgart. She finished as the runner-up in Dubai and Madrid with defeats to Barbora Krejcikova and Aryna Sabalenka, respectively.
This is in stark contrast to the 2022 season, where Swiatek began as the World No. 9 but ended as the top-ranked player by a big margin. She was aided by an incredible 37-match win streak, the longest in the 21st century.
The Pole had a 67-9 win-loss record for 2022 and finished with eight titles to her name, including the French Open and the US Open.
In her pre-tournament press conference at the 2023 French Open, Swiatek spoke positively about her rivalry with Sabalenka and Rybakina.
“Totally different situation than last year,” Iga Swiatek said. “It’s nice to have, you know, somebody constantly like kind of watching you. We played so many matches against each other that tactically we know our game pretty well.”
“But we also have to kind of come up with some different solutions sometimes, which is pretty exciting, because I never had that yet in my career,” she added. “I think this is what like big three had to do for sure when they played like, I don’t know, 30 matches against each other or even more.”
Swiatek will open her French Open title defense against 67th-ranked Cristina Bucsa on Monday, May 29.