Iga Swiatek “looked irritable” in her French Open first-round win, says John McEnroe, who also discussed the Pole’s growing ‘Big Three’ rivalry with Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.
The world No. 1 then breezed through the second set with yet another bagel of 2023 to earn her place in the second round and a meeting with American Claire Liu.
Speaking on Eurosport, McEnroe – in Paris for the tournament – said: “She [Swiatek] seemed a little off in the beginning, but I don’t think she was stressing a whole lot. She looked slightly irritable.
“She’s been feeling a lot more pressure this year because everyone expects her to win every tournament and suddenly, Rybakina and Sabalenka have both stepped up and they’re the two who are most likely to win this if it’s not Iga, because they’re the ones who can take the racquet out of her hand.
“Otherwise, I’d pick Iga to win this on the clay. In these dry, slippery conditions, they might help a big hitter like Rybakina or Sabalenka. They go for big shots and that might cause Swiatek problems, as she’s the best movers that I’ve ever seen, up with Serena [Williams] and Kim Clijsters, the all-time great movers.
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“If conditions get heavier, I’d pick her to win it.”
Tim Henman, reacting to the Pole’s win in conversation with McEnroe and Barbara Schett, stated his belief that Swiatek, the defending champion, is his favourite for the title.
“You saw Swiatek struggling in the first set and you begin thinking whether this is going to be another big shock, but she showed a lot of composure, not getting flustered.
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“It’s never easy, and the conditions were tricky. She did really well.
“Swiatek was perhaps a little nervous, she’s coming off Rome where she had the injury, so these are all the minor details, and the most important detail was the victory.
“[Her forehand] is Swiatek’s strength. From the back of the court, she’s able to change direction off both wings, and she was looking to be dominant and on top, with early preparation.
“That’s the foundation of why she’s good on any surface and certainly on clay, she’s the favourite for this tournament.”
Adding his thoughts on the ‘Big Three’ emerging, Henman said it’s “what the women’s game needs”.
“We can look back in history at the great rivalries of women’s tennis. [Martina] Navratilova and [Chris] Evert, [Steffi] Graf and [Monica] Seles, and you can say right now that is what we are missing.
“But when you look at Swiatek, Rybakina and Sabalenka, they’re dominating the big tournaments, playing so well so consistently.
“That’s what the women’s game needs right now, and when you see all these upsets early on, I really hope that those female players can get through to the second week, because when we see them go head-to-head, in the biggest and best tournaments, that’s big for the sport.”
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