Several years ago, the current landscape of the WTA Tour entering Roland Garros would have been viewed as the product of an unwelcome inconsistency. This year, however, the WTA Tour — though very unpredictable — features more quality and depth than the sport has seen in some time.
Not since the early 2000s — when there was prime Venus and an emergent Serena, and Henin and Davenport and Hingis and Capriati and Clijsters and Mauresmo and several others — has the WTA featured so many really good tennis players. Moreover, it’s not just a healthy tour because of the top 15. It’s also a healthy tour because there simply aren’t many easy second-round matches anymore. The top players on the WTA Tour will generally face really good opponents in second rounds. At the majors, shift second rounds to third rounds — the round of 32 is simply not a cakewalk anymore.
The WTA is a wonderfully contentious place — players aren’t inconsistent so much as they are almost always running into formidable opposition. One good player will win one week, another will win the next week. The WTA isn’t exposing the flaws of top players (which it used to, but no longer does). The WTA is showcasing the quality of players outside the top 10. There are so many good players to choose from.
This evolving dynamic has been known for a few years, but it is continuing to move in the direction of more and more depth. Kiki Mladenovic has been renewed by her partnership with coach Sascha Bajin. Jo Konta has revived her season on clay in May, a plot twist few anticipated. Even Daria Kasatkina began to pick up the pace in Rome. Almost everything seems possible in women’s tennis these days.
Now add injuries and attrition to the mix.
Naomi Osaka withdrew from Rome on Friday, giving Kiki Bertens a walkover into the semifinals.
Osaka is hardly the only member of the top 15 who has struggled with injuries at some point in the past three months. You could make that claim about these other players:
Simona Halep. Angelique Kerber. Petra Kvitova. Elina Svitolina. Serena Williams. Anastasija Sevastova.
Those are huge names (Sevastova excepted). Moreover, most of them are elite clay-court players.
Here we are, a week from the Roland Garros draw and just over a week from the start of the year’s clay-court major.
Do you have any clue what’s going to happen in Paris on the WTA side, with so much quality depth AND so many big-name players in very uncertain condition relative to injuries and overall health?
Plenty more will be written about this topic next week, as Tennis With An Accent previews Roland Garros, but let’s simply note the bottom line right now: The women’s French Open is as wide-open as a major tournament can be. Prepare to be surprised. Brace yourself for an unexpected collection of quarterfinalists, semifinalists, and championship-match participants in France.