French Open 2022 — With early exits of Barbora Krejcikova, Naomi Osaka and others, a huge opportunity emerges for rising stars

The look of disappointment was apparent throughout the grounds at Roland Garros through the first two days of play. Ons Jabeur. Garbine Muguruza. Naomi Osaka. Anett Kontaveit.

And defending champion Barbora Krejcikova.

With play suspended on each different courtroom as a result of rain on Monday afternoon, all eyes had been on No. 2-ranked Krejcikova in her opening-round match towards French teenager Diane Parry as they performed below the roof at Philippe-Chatrier.

Krejcikova regarded greater than snug with the eye and in her position as favourite. After a double fault to open the match, she quieted her nerves and took management. She received the subsequent 15 factors and ultimately jumped out to a commanding 6-1, 2-0 lead.

And then every thing fell aside.

Parry discovered her manner again into the match and Krejcikova, who had been sidelined for three months previous to the French Open with a proper elbow harm, received solely three extra video games. Krejcikova grew to become simply the third defending champion at Roland Garros to lose within the first spherical.

“You know, I simply assume I simply collapsed bodily,” she mentioned throughout a tearful press convention.

She had arrived in Paris forward of the 2021 match unseeded and generally known as a doubles specialist, and over the previous yr has emerged as one of essentially the most recognizable faces on tour.

Still, with the surging newly topped Madrid Open champion Jabeur and 2016 French Open victor Muguruza very a lot in rivalry on her facet of the draw, in addition to world No. 5 Kontaveit and four-time main winner Osaka, it was clear her street again to the ultimate can be a difficult one.

But, in a not-so-surprising twist for girls’s tennis, all of these gamers had been despatched house earlier than the primary spherical was over. Each regarded dejected as they shortly packed up their luggage and walked off the courtroom, understanding that they had let an opportunity slip previous them.

“Obviously I’m a little bit disillusioned as a result of I used to be anticipating myself to go far on this match,” Jabeur advised reporters on Sunday.

Jabeur’s disappointment, and that of her eradicated friends, might lead to a career-making opportunity: That half of the draw is now huge open, with out a French Open champion. And a rising star akin to Maria Sakkari, Amanda Anisimova, Coco Gauff or Belinda Bencic may very well be there to take benefit of it.

None of these 4 gamers have ever reached a main remaining earlier than. But now every might do precisely that.

And Roland Garros can be a good place to do it — the earlier six girls’s champions have all been first-time main winners.

Make no mistake, although: World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, on the alternative facet of the draw, stays the overwhelming favourite to win the title. Her 6-2, 6-0 first-round win over Lesia Tsurenko on Monday marked her twenty ninth straight victory. The 20-year-old hasn’t misplaced since February and has received 5 titles alongside the best way, together with 4 on the 1000-level.

There’s dominant and then there’s Swiatek.

But, of course, assuming every thing goes to plan, Swiatek nonetheless has to play — and beat — somebody within the remaining so as to hoist her second Suzanne-Lenglen cup. The query is: Who will seize this opportunity and play on championship Saturday in Paris?

After Jabeur and Muguruza’s losses on Sunday, Sakkari grew to become the betting favourite from her half of the draw to win the title in keeping with Caesars Sportsbook, with the third-best odds within the occasion (behind solely Swiatek and 2018 champion Simona Halep, who performs in her opening-round match on Tuesday).

The 26-year-old Sakkari, presently ranked No. 3, received the lone WTA title of her profession on clay on the Morocco Open in 2019 and made her breakthrough at a Slam by reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2021. She went on to succeed in the semis on the US Open and the ultimate at Ostrava earlier than the yr was over and has mentioned the run at Roland Garros was the turning level.

“I do not actually take into consideration what occurred in 2021 however of course it was the beginning of, you understand, a completely different journey for my profession,” Sakkari mentioned on Sunday. “I began, I’ve mentioned many instances, believing extra in myself after what occurred right here.”

That momentum and confidence has carried into 2022. She reached the ultimate at Indian Wells in March, the place she misplaced to Swiatek, and recorded a quarterfinal look in Rome main into the French Open. Sakkari made fast work of Clara Burel in her opener on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory. But her subsequent match probably will not be as straightforward. She is scheduled to tackle Karolina Muchova, the 2021 Australian Open semifinalist, on Wednesday, and a win might lead to a potential third-round conflict with Anisimova.

Anisimova, who has the second-best odds from that facet of the draw to win the title, opened her 2022 French Open with a assertion victory over Osaka on Monday. The 20-year-old had spoiled Osaka’s title protection on the Australian Open earlier this yr within the third spherical, and she proved the victory was no fluke. Anisimova reached the semifinals in Paris in 2019 and trails solely Jabeur for essentially the most tour-level wins on clay this season because of a semifinal run on the inexperienced clay at Charleston and quarterfinal appearances in Madrid and Rome.

“It’s good going into this match understanding that I used to be so shut again [in 2019], and simply having a superb run, so I do know it is in me,” Anisimova mentioned on Monday. “I simply have a lot of confidence proper now with all of the tournaments that I’ve performed up to now.”

Anisimova, who reached the French Open junior remaining in 2016, will subsequent face Donna Vekic within the second spherical.

Like Anisimova, Gauff additionally reached the French Open junior remaining, however she did her one higher and received the title in 2017. Since then the now-18-year-old has had some of her greatest outcomes on the European clay. She notched her second profession singles title on the floor on the Emilia-Romagna Open in 2021, and adopted it up by reaching her first main quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

During her first-round match on Sunday, she held off a difficult begin from Rebecca Marino for a 7-5, 6-0 victory. She’ll subsequent face Alison Van Uytvanck, who was dropping to Ann Li earlier than Li needed to retire with harm. Gauff, the No. 18 seed, would not face one other seeded participant till a minimum of the fourth spherical. The expectations for Gauff have been sky-high since she arrived on the skilled scene, and this might very nicely be her greatest probability but to make a severe main title run.

Bencic, a 2019 US Open semifinalist, has already confirmed she will win on the large stage along with her gold-medal profitable efficiency in Tokyo final summer season. She’s by no means superior previous the third spherical in Paris, however she received the primary clay title of her profession in April in Charleston.

“To present that I can do it in [the] Olympics and I can do it right here on the clay, it is like a large problem that I’ve overcome in myself and it helps me going ahead,” Bencic mentioned in Charleston.

The momentum has carried into her 2022 French Open marketing campaign — she routed Luca Jani”>Reka Luca Jani, 6-1, 6-1, in her opener. And Bencic does not have to attend lengthy to check her present stage as she is going to tackle a resurgent Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, within the second spherical.

Andreescu is one of six former main champions remaining on this facet of the draw, together with Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Emma Raducanu, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens — all of whom would relish the possibility to win their first trophy at Roland Garros. As would Leylah Fernandez, who reached the ultimate on the US Open in September, and a slew of different gifted gamers of various ranges of success.

What will occur within the second spherical, and past, is anybody’s guess however one factor is for sure: Someone could have the possibility of a lifetime in lower than two weeks.

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