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Tour Results

Iga Swiatek Annointed as the Queen of Clay at Roland-Garros

by Mike McIntyre

June 12, 2023

Iga Swiatek came into Roland-Garros as the heavy favourite and walked away with her third title after defeating surprise finalist Karolina Muchova in a competitive final 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

En route to the title, Swiatek handed out four bagels through her opening three matches and didn’t drop a set until the final vs Muchova. She’s proven to be the best clay court player of the current generation on the WTA and with the title now has four majors to her name.

Though Swiatek was challenged in the lead-up to the French Open, she raised her game over the past two weeks to emerge as champion. After winning in Stuttgart back in April, Swiatek lost the finals in Madrid to Aryna Sabalenka and then had to withdraw against Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals in Rome while tied 2-2 in the third set after feeling discomfort in her right leg.

The question marks about her ability to defend her title at Roland-Garros were justified, but Swiatek quickly muted those as she blitzed through the opening rounds in Paris.

Huge respect has to be given to Muchova for making the first major final of her career after injuries had severely disrupted her career progression in recent times. The 26-year-old can take solace in the fact that she becomes the first player to take a set off Swiatek in a Grand Slam singles final and she made things more competitive than many probably expected of her as well.

Muchova announced that she was ready to compete at the highest level in Paris with her straight set win in the first round against eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari. Fast forward to the semifinals and Muchova produced another big upset, this time against second seed Aryna Sabalenka, who many had predicted would face Swiatek for the championship.

“The feeling is a little bitter” said Muchova after the loss, “because I felt it was very close, a close match. But overall, I mean, to call myself Grand Slam finalist, it's an amazing achievement, and for sure big motivation for me to work in the future and to get a chance again to play for these big titles.”

After her victory, Swiatek shared the feelings of capturing another French Open title and about the pressure she faced from her opponent:

“I'm feeling all these different emotions right now. It's pretty surreal, everything. But the match was really intense, a lot of ups and downs. Stressful moments and coming back, you know. So I'm pretty happy that at the end I could be solid in those few last games and finish it. But Karolina really played well. It was a big challenge. I'm happy and really proud of myself that I did it.”

Swiatek’s 62-week reign as world No. 1 continues and doesn’t seem like it will be threatened anytime soon with the way she has played on clay coupled with her strength on other surfaces as well. Swiatek joins active player Naomi Osaka and retired legend Monica Seles as the only women to win the first four major finals that they appeared in. While she still has 11 more French Open titles to catch Rafael Nadal, I think for now it’s safe to call Iga Swiatek the Queen of Clay!

The Rest of the Field

It was still a strong showing for No. 2 Aryan Sabalenka, despite the fact she couldn’t quite make it to the women’s singles final. Many were expecting a showdown between her and Swiatek given their two previous clay court finals in recent weeks but Karolina Muchova had other things planned. As the WTA moves to grass, Sabalenka should hit her stride with her lethal serve and powerful groundstrokes. The prospect of her adding to her first career major from the Aussie Open are very realistic in 2023.

Other players who enjoyed a strong tournament at the French include 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, who made it to the first Slam semifinal of her career before coming up against Iga Swiatek. Haddad Maia is the first Brazilian to make it that far at Roland-Garros since three-time winner Gustavo Kuerten.

A final feel-good story from the French Open this year has got to be the return to prominence for Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina. The 28-year-old rejoined the tour earlier this year after giving birth to her first child and has quickly found her game that previously had her as a mainstay in the Top Ten on the WTA.

It was the first Major she had played in since the 2022 Australian Open. Svitolina made the quarter-finals at the French for the fourth time in her career and along the way defeated the likes of 26th seed Maria Trevisan and ninth seed Daria Kasatkina as well.

Women’s Doubles and Canadian Content

While the Canadians struggled in singles competition, they excelled in the doubles world. Leylah Annie Fernandez, who fell in the second round in singles, made the women’s doubles final alongside regular partner Taylor Townsend. Despite being beaten in the finals by Wang Xinyu and Hsieh Su-wei 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, the duo put up a strong showing during their two week run and have emerged as one of the top doubles teams on the WTA. At just 20 years of age, Fernandez can be proud of the fact she’s already made the finals of a Major in both singles and doubles.

Gaby Dabrowski found herself in the rare position of being ousted from both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events by fellow Canadians. She was beaten in women’s doubles alongside Louisa Stefani by eventual finalists Fernandez and Townsend by a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the third round. In the mixed event, she made it to the semifinals with American Nathaniel Lammons before being taken out by Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus 7-6(5), 7-6(4).

The result matches Dabrowski’s performance at the French Open from a year ago in mixed doubles, where she also won the event back in 2017 and was a finalist in 2018 and 2019.

As mentioned above, it was a fantastic tournament from Bianca Andreescu in doubles where she made it all the way to the final before falling to the duo of Miyu Kato and Tim Puetz 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. Not normally known for playing a lot of doubles and certainly not mixed doubles, the result was a welcome one for Andreescu who found herself eliminated in singles competition in the third round at the hands of Lesia Tsurenko.

Andreescu started the tournament strong by winning a tough opener against Victoria Azarenka and also dispatching Emma Navarro in the second round. Canadian tennis fans were getting excited about the prospect of seeing Andreescu face world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the round of sixteen, but that wasn’t meant to be. Nonetheless, it marked the first time that Andreescu has advanced that far in her four career attempts in the main draw.

The WTA's best return to Montreal this summer for the National Bank Open August 4 to 13 at IGA Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!