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Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek prepared to begin new period

of dominance on clay

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Right here shall be two defending champions within the girls’ draw on the French Open this 12 months.

That isn’t usually the way it works; when a participant wins a title one 12 months, they return to the scene of their success and check out their hardest to carry on to it. Most fail.

Final 12 months, nevertheless, as uncertainty swirled throughout the first waves of the pandemic, the world No 1, Ashleigh Barty, opted to not journey attributable to security considerations and since nationwide border closures in Australia meant she was unable to coach together with her coach. As an alternative, because the 19-year-old Iga Swiatek demolished the sector to win her first grand slam title, Barty spent her days cheering on her Aussie Guidelines soccer group, Richmond, with a beer in her hand.

As each gamer return to Paris for the primary time since they lifted the trophy, the perpetually unpredictable world of ladies’ tennis has generated some order. Swiatek and Barty are the 2 clear favorites to win the French Open once more.

Earlier than successful at Roland Garros, Swiatek had by no means crossed the fourth spherical of a slam and he or she had contested solely 5 main tournaments. Her victory was a startling rise to the event and some of the dominant grand slam runs in the latest reminiscence. She didn’t lose a set, dropping 28 video games in whole.

Even the scores, together with her 6-1, 6-2 dismantling of Simona Halep within the fourth spherical, don’t fairly convey simply how her stage transcended that of her opponents. She already possesses an entire sport: she owns maybe the heaviest forehand, which may each tear via the courtroom and spin as much as shoulder top, however, her backhand is much more dependable. She is an elite returner however her kick serve is already among the many finest. Her glorious athleticism is complemented with high-quality hand abilities.

For the previous eight months, she has been charged with coping together with her newfound presence as a high participant. She has talked about her struggles with the sudden rush of consideration and obligations. And she or he has steadily needed to bounce again from frustration and show her progress. To this point, she has succeeded.


Most lately, her return to her favorite floor was not going as she had deliberate. After shedding in straight units to Barty in Madrid, she discovered herself on her means out of the third spherical in Rome to the Thirty eighth-ranked Barbora Krejcikova. As an alternative of panicking she saved two match factors and survived in two hours 50 minutes.

Iga Swiatek lifts the French Open trophy after her impressive victory in 2020.
Iga Swiatek lifts the French Open trophy after her spectacular victory in 2020. {Photograph}: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

After shifting into the ultimate she then pulled off a win that the majority of gamers can solely dream of: 6-0, 6-0 in 46 minutes towards the world No 9, Karolina Pliskova, for her first WTA 1000 title.

Barty’s relationship with clay is a transparent level of distinction. Earlier than the 2019 clay courtroom seasons, she mentioned she begins annually with a countdown till the grass season. Not even a French Open title has modified her perspective. After successful the Miami Open in March, with the clay season to come back, she was clear: “Don’t get me flawed, I’m nonetheless counting down the times to the grass season, unquestionably.”

Reality is embedded in her humor. Till 2019 Barty struggled to attach with clay, recording a 16-13 file on the floor between 2012 and 2018 without passing the second spherical of the French Open. Her sport is constructed for the sooner, lower-bouncing courts and it’s in these situations that she feels most free.

At 5ft 5in, Barty owns arguably the very best serve produced by a brief participant within the girls’s sport and he or she leads the WTA this 12 months for service video games received at 81%. Barty’s love of grass can be rooted in her desire for taking her forehand early, her low-bouncing slice and her affinity with the web.

What permits her to play so properly on clay is her tactical flexibility and athleticism. Regardless of her desire for controlling her matches, she is prepared to take a step again, to imagine a extra reactive position and use her glorious motion. She thrives at opening the courtroom on clay with angled forehands and her backhand slice helpfully elongates factors, shredding her opponents’ persistence on the slower floor.

After snuffing out all of the questions surrounding the validity of her No 1 rating after almost a 12 months away together with her Miami Open triumph, she has additionally accomplished so on clay. She clinched her French Open title in 2019 with only one win over a high 20 participant and so there have been doubts whether or not her victory was a mirrored image of a supreme psychological efficiency or if she actually was an elite clay courtroom participant within the making.

Final month, in her first pink clay match for the reason that French Open, she received the WTA 500 match Stuttgart with three wins over high 10 opponents. An intensive, clear reply.

Barty has since reached the Madrid last, beating Swiatek within the third spherical, and he or she retired from her Rome quarter-final whereas main 6-4, 2-1 towards Coco Gauff, 4 video games shy of one other contest with a much more assured Swiatek. She has misplaced one accomplished match on pink clay this 12 months.

Barty, the highest seed, and Swiatek, ranked eighth, are drawn to face one another within the semi-final. Ought to they get there – and there’s no assure that they are going to – the hope is that these are the makings of a brand new rivalry on this floor. The expectation is that no matter how they fare this 12 months their French Open titles would be the start line for continued success on the floor for years to come back.



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