It feels as though there has been a real shift in women’s tennis in the lead-up to the second Grand Slam of the year. We have been through years of wide-open, unpredictable Grand Slam tournaments. This Roland-Garros is shaping up to be anything but that.
The short favorite for the Australian Open, Ashleigh Barty, prevailed after standing out in the statistics. It is her shock retirement in March that left the door open for the dominance we have seen from Iga Swiatek in 2022. The Pole is on a 28-match winning streak taking in victories in Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, & Rome. This positions Swiatek as the player to beat, and rarely has anyone got close in this run. Only 5 of the 28 victories came in three sets, and since the third round of Indian Wells, only Liudmila Samsonova has taken a set from Swiatek in the semifinal of Stuttgart.
And yet. There are still holes one can pick in Swiatek’s challenge here. She has only one Grand Slam title, here in 2020, which means that she has lost in seven events since then, without reaching another final. So where else could we look for an alternative winner? Let us delve into the relevant statistics.
Solving the 2022 French Open
To this end, I have employed the use of statistics and mathematics. By taking different strands of form and displaying them together it is possible to tease out little details that can help to decipher the draw.
In this case, the information displayed is:
- WTA Ranking
- ELO Ranking
- Bookmaker odds
- WTA Tour match record – last twelve months
- Career WTA Tour clay-court record
- Last 10 win/loss ratio
- Grand Slam career win/loss ratio
- Last 10 matches win/loss ratio vs Top 10 players
The Leading Contenders
Having already extolled the virtues of Iga Swiatek I am loathed to continue to do so but there is so much data in support of her here. Her game win % is the highest I have ever seen over the course of a decent sample size. This demonstrates that not only is she winning matches, but Swiatek is also thoroughly dominating them. Worryingly for the field when one assesses Swiatek’s 41 match WTA main draw career that exceptional 2022 level is almost matched, despite it coming from a few seasons’ worth of data. Just to top off the dominance she has won eight of her last ten matches against the top ten ranked players.
Of the other leading contenders, Simona Halep is the one that comes closest to matching Swiatek in 2022 and over her clay-court career. She also has been a champion in Roland-Garros, but has the advantage of winning since then too, at Wimbledon in 2019. The main concern for Halep is that 30% win ratio vs Top 10 players recently. Barbora Krejcikova’s main issue is fitness, Naomi Osaka’s reaction to red clay is bang average at best but Paula Badosa looks very solid both in recent form and over her career on the clay.
Can we rule anyone out?
Karolina Pliskova looks to be on a real slide in the data. She is the only person listed that has lost more games than she has won in 2022. Daria Kasatkina’s clay court record is also very much against her, as is her Grand Slam win/loss history. Jessica Pegula and Amanda Anisimova have also flattered to deceive in previous Grand Slam tournaments and though I wouldn’t rule them out specifically for that reason, there is an area for them to improve if they are to seriously challenge.
Clay Court Queens
The longevity of Simona Halep probably means that the clay court queen title still belongs to her. She has played so many more matches than the other contenders on the surface and maintained an elite level over that time. Anything 110+ on games won shows a significant class edge and Halep’s 118.6 over 186 matches is outstanding.
Iga Swiatek is on course to improve that standard, but with less than a quarter of the matches that Halep has played, it is a bit early to give the Pole the ultimate crown at the moment.
The other players over that elite standard of 110 in the data are Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur. In my mind, they are lively contenders for this tournament so it is good to see that they have a degree of pedigree in the data. Emma Raducanu is also over 110, but off a very small sample size of seven matches. Raducanu is still a total amateur on the dirt having played her very first tour match on the surface only four weeks ago but she showed in a well-fought loss to Swiatek (losing 6-4 6-4) that she could be an interesting player to follow on clay in future.
Form lines Of Concern
Garbine Muguruza has gone so far off the boil this season that she’s almost cold. After winning the WTA Tour finals last season she appears to have lost focus and has won only 4 of her last 10. You would expect most players to struggle against top ten opponents, we have mentioned a couple already, but Cori Gauff and Elena Rybakina are two that, in their young careers, they have yet to crack the code of playing the better players. You feel that both still have growth to make in their games and will improve that statistic in time.
After Jelena Ostapenko won in Dubai in February she looked unplayable. This is a player who won a French Open in 2017 and finally she was back to her best, lasering winners to all corners of the court. However, in what has become a familiar tale, the Latvian has gone completely the opposite way. She has lost four in a row now on tour, with zero clay-court wins under her belt coming into this Roland-Garros.
We have seen little at the top of the game to change anyone’s opinion that Iga Swiatek is the player that they all have to beat. In most tournaments, it is a case of whether you prefer Player A or Player B/C/D but ahead of this one, it is more of a question of whether you prefer Swiatek or the other 127 put together. If she is able to replicate the form over the last few months to a 90% standard then she wins, potentially in straight sets all the way.
The greatest threats to Swiatek possibly come from Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur. Both players have tied head-to-head records with Swiatek so have positive experiences against the Pole to draw upon. Both players have pretty solid statistics from this year and on clay but need to establish themselves more strongly in the very biggest events.
Finally, a quick word on my favorite outsider for the French Open, Amanda Anisimova. Though still young, she was a fresh teenager when she made a run to the semifinals here in 2019, so she has positive memories at the venue. 2022 has shown something of a resurgence from the American, a title win just before the Australian Open led to a decent run in the opening slam of the year and, as is borne out in the data, she has maintained a very healthy win percentage of 74% this year.
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