Iga Swiatek’s stunning winning run could be ended at the French Open by the unpredictability of three-set tennis, according to Eurosport expert Mats Wilander.
The world No.1 goes into the second Grand Slam of the year on the back of 28 straight victories, making her the overwhelming favourite for the title at Roland-Garros - having won the trophy for the first time in 2020.
Wilander, a three-time singles champion in Paris, thinks there are very few players who would be able to get near Swiatek if the women’s game was played over five sets - but says best of three means she cannot be quite as dominant.
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“If it was five sets, I would say Iga Swiatek is always the big, big favourite because the level she would play at over five sets, she would always be the big favourite,” Wilander told Eurosport.
“Because it’s three sets, there are a lot of women that can come out and play unbelievably for 45 minutes to an hour and in that time they could leave Swiatek 6-3 or up a break and suddenly we now need a little bit of luck to turn the match around.
“She’s the favourite for sure, but it’s much more difficult to consistently be the favourite over three sets. Iga still needs good starts in matches whereas Novak [Djokovic] does not need a good start in any match and after one, two hours, he will slowly become the favourite over a match that will last a minimum of three hours.
“With Iga it could last one hour and she might not have found her form that day.”
Swiatek has wiped the floor at every clay court tournament she has played this year, with her most recent defeat coming at the Dubai Tennis Championships, on a hard court, when she lost to Jelena Ostapenko in February.
Wilander says the dusty courts play to Swiatek’s advantage, while he also believes she is ushering a new style of play which will sweep across the women’s game.
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“I think there are not that many women that are as comfortable on clay as there are men,” said Wilander.
“Some of that has to do with movement on clay, where you need to slide to cover the entire court. There are not that many women who are quick enough and strong enough who can slide and defend the whole court. Plan B is playing defensively to cover the whole court, but this is much easier to play on the men’s side.
“The future of women’s tennis is going the way that Switak is playing with a forehand that is a little bit more top spin in the past, so the margin of error is much bigger.
“She can play safe but very aggressive, just like Rafa and Novak with the forehand. We haven’t really seen that in the women’s game as it takes racquet head speed and strength to develop that.
“Iga is on the way to where the women’s game is going, which is a little more variety and a little bit more safety, but still extremely aggressive. I expect we will still have lots of different winners in the women’s game because it’s three sets.”
Swiatek will find out her first round opponent in Thursday evening’s draw (6pm BST), which will be streamed live on eurosport.co.uk.
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