How can an unknown young Polish girl, who has never won a main circuit tournament in her career, suddenly, on a beautiful Saturday in October, win a Grand Slam tournament, in this case that of Roland-Garros, only 19 years old and without having conceded a single set of the fortnight? All after correcting 6-1,6-2, in the first round, last year’s finalist, Marketa Vondrousova. And sent home a former world number one, Simona Halep, in two strokes of the racket in the round of 16. “I’m not that surprised, commented the player, before leaving Paris after her rout. At this level, everyone is playing very well and all matches are open. In fact, it all depends on if it’s your day or not. “
Six seeds only in second week
The Romanian does not say that, like the coronation of Iga Swiatek on Saturday 10, women’s tennis has become, for five years, a lottery, where anyone seems able to beat anyone. The semi-finals of this Parisian edition were the measure of this huge question mark, with a player from the qualifying tournament, Argentina Nadia Podoroska, never seen before. In the quarterfinals, another qualified, the Italian Martina Trevisan, was eliminated by the future winner.
Of the 32 seeds in the big table, only six made it through the second week. They were only two in the semi-finals. Professional observers of women’s tennis are losing their Latin. “Today, there is no domination, as we have seen in the past or as we see in men, notes the former world number 1, Amélie Mauresmo, in West France. For the general public, it’s difficult to get to know the players and get caught up in the game. Obviously this makes women’s tennis a little difficult for the general public to follow. “
Since the end of Serena Williams’ dominance, who lost her grip on world tennis in 2015, no less than twelve different players have inscribed their names on the trophy of one of the four majors. Some, like Japan’s Naomi Osaka, built a solid track record, scoring three wins, but many were content with a one-day triumph, in the midst of increasingly uncertain careers.
Why not a French Swiatek?
Thus, the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, surprise winner of Roland-Garros 2017 at the age of 20, has never regained her level and is now sailing around the 50e world place. The Canadian Bianca Andreescu, winner of the US Open 2019, is doing better, but is far from her level of last year. As for Saturday’s finalist, the American Sofia Kenin, a solid candidate for a regular course after her victory at the last Australian Open, she was literally swept away by Iga Swiatek.
In this great inconvenience, the good news is that the tables are open. Nothing seems off limits to daring young players. “There will be other Swiateks in the years to come and why not French”, bets the French national technical director Pierre Cherret who is looking at the junior tournaments: ” Today is where it happens. The emergence of Clara Burel this year at Roland Garros may have surprised, but we forget that she was number one junior. In the very open context of women’s tennis today, nothing is impossible for a player like her. ” The victory of the unknown Iga Swiatek does not come from nowhere, if we look at his substantial junior record, including a victory at Wimbledon 2018 in the under-18 category.
Elsa Jacquemot, junior at the door of the big girls
At 17, Lyonnaise Elsa Jacquemot became on Saturday 10 October the fourth Frenchwoman in twenty years to win the Roland-Garros junior tournament. She succeeds Virginie Razzano (2000), Alizé Cornet (2007) and Kristina Mladenovic (2009), all three of whom then had very honest careers. The Lyonnaise could hope for even better because at the time of her predecessors, a good junior career did not guarantee any tomorrow that sings among the seniors. Today, the junior circuit has taken on a new dimension: according to a study by the French National Technical Directorate, 90% of the players under 25 in the Top 50 shone in the under 18s. A new data which offers prospects to Elsa Jacquemot, who will already be able, with this title, to obtain more easily invitations in important tournaments.