(Reuters) – Five top contenders for the women’s title at the French Open, which starts on Sunday.
IGA SWIATEK (POLAND)
World number one Swiatek is the favourite to defend her crown on the Parisian clay but the odds of her success will depend on whether she has fully recovered from a thigh injury, which forced her to retire from her quarter-final match in Rome.
The Pole has contested four finals this year, winning titles Qatar and Stuttgart prior to her injury in Rome, and she enters the claycourt major having held her position as the top-ranked player for 60 consecutive weeks.
ARYNA SABALENKA (BELARUS)
After winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Sabalenka established herself as a serious contender at the French Open in recent weeks by beating Swiatek in the Madrid Open final, shortly after losing to her in the final in Stuttgart.
The continuing evolution of Sabalenka has seen her win three titles this season and she arrives in Paris with the highest winning percentage in 2023.
The powerful and big-hitting Belarusian has often stumbled in the latter stages at the highest level but having found a measure of control, the 25-year-old is ready to challenge for major titles.
ELENA RYBAKINA (KAZAKHSTAN)
Rybakina won the biggest claycourt title of her career in Rome and made her top five debut this week as she continues to raise the bar since winning Wimbledon last year.
After finishing runner-up at the Australian Open, winning the title at Indian Wells and reaching the final at the Miami Open, the Moscow-born Kazakh is now eyeing the biggest prize on the claycourts of Paris.
The budding rivalry between Rybakina, Sabalenka and Swiatek has made a mounting case for the emergence of the so-called “Big Three” on the women’s tour.
COCO GAUFF (UNITED STATES)
American teenager Gauff become the youngest French Open finalist in 21 years when she faced Swiatek in the title clash last year.
Gauff enters the draw in Paris having won one title this season and reaching the third round in the tune-up events in Madrid and Rome.
She has also been enjoying a deep run in the women’s doubles, reaching the finals in Madrid and Rome.
ONS JABEUR (TUNISIA)
Fitness issues interrupted former world number two Jabeur’s 2023, forcing her to miss events in Doha and Dubai in February and her comeback from a calf injury was cut short in Rome after she bowed out in the second round.
The Tunisian, who won on the hardcourts in Charleston, is working to rediscover her game and will be eager to improve on her shocking first-round exit at the French Open last year, which came on the back of her triumph in Madrid.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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