Biggest takeaways from Roland Garros Week 1

  • Matt Trollope

Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek may appear in excellent form as defending champions, but they could face some stiff competition for the Roland Garros singles titles from resurgent legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams, plus a host of rising teenager stars.

These intergenerational success stories, among others, have stood out during the tournament's first week as the 128-player draws have been whittled down to 16.

Defending champions dominant

Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek began the tournament as the men’s and women’s favourites. And judging by their performances so far at Roland Garros, that consensus has not changed.

Both won their third-round matches in straight sets on Saturday, with Nadal now having won 32 consecutive sets at the tournament, and Swiatek 20.

READ MORE: Nadal, Swiatek dominate, Federer through on Day 7

Set-winning streaks are not the only parallels between Nadal and Swiatek, who practised together ahead of the tournament

Neither player has dropped a set in Paris since 2019 and both entered this year’s event having won the Rome titles after saving match points in their third-round wins there. Both also celebrated their birthdays in the first week at Roland Garros.

Federer and Serena impress

Roger Federer and Serena Williams were barely in the form and favouritism conversation ahead of this tournament. Williams managed just one win on the surface and Federer was unable to notch any, even admitting that his Roland Garros campaign was more about getting match practice for Wimbledon. 

Yet a four-set win over Marin Cilic, followed by a gritty victory over Dominik Koepfer, has sent the Swiss star into the fourth round for the 13th straight time. 

Williams, who like Federer is just a few months away from turning 40, stormed into the last 16 with a high-intensity win over Danielle Collins, and has looked dialled-in on the dirt. She is now the highest-ranked player remaining in the bottom half of the draw as she continues her campaign for a record-equalling 24th major singles title.

Should fourth-round results follow the rankings, Williams would next meet long-time rival Victoria Azarenka while Federer would clash with top seed Novak Djokovic, who has cruised through the draw without the loss of a set.

Women’s draw decimated – but still stacks up

The tournament lost 2018 champion and world No.3 Simona Halep before it even began, and superstars Garbine Muguruza and Bianca Andreescu, who endured interrupted lead-ups, fell in the first round.

By the second round, Ash Barty had injured her hip, Naomi Osaka withdrew citing mental health struggles and Petra Kvitova had twisted her ankle.

Nine of the top 12 seeds have since been eliminated.

DRAW: Roland Garros women's singles

Yet five major champions – Williams, Swiatek, Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin – remain, as do several of the tour’s form clay-courters including Coco Gauff, Paula Badosa, Sorana Cirstea, Tamara Zidansek and Barbora Krejcikova.

It is a testament to the strength of the WTA tour that the women’s event remains as compelling as it currently stands.

The future looks bright

The talented trio of Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz all progressed to the third round, marking the first time since 2001 – when it was Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Tommy Robredo – that three teenagers had appeared at that stage of the French Open.

Alcaraz become the youngest player, at 18 years and one month, to progress to the last 32 in Paris since Andrei Medvedev in 1992.

And while he bowed out to Jan-Lennard Struff on Saturday, Sinner and Musetti progressed to book blockbuster showdowns with Nadal and Djokovic respectively.

“Me and Jannik, I think we are the future of Italian tennis, and of the tennis in general,” Musetti said.

Teenagers are also thriving in the women’s draw, with 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk becoming the youngest Ukrainian female player to advance to the last 16 at a major, and Coco Gauff, at 17 years and three months, becoming the youngest player to reach the fourth round in Paris since Nicole Vaidisova 15 years earlier.

Italian men flourishing

Sinner and Musetti were among seven Italian men progressing to the second round – the highest number since 1955 – and among five taking a step further into the third, the second-best total since 1947.

Now, with Sinner and Musetti, plus Matteo Berrettini, winning through to the fourth round, it’s the first time that three Italian men have appeared in the last 16 at the same Grand Slam tournament. Ever. 

“It's really nice to see all of the Italians. It's something we are not used to it. Nobody is used to it. And I think it's really great,” Berrettini commented.

Italy is currently represented by 10 men in the ATP top 100.

American women, too

The United States can boast four women through to the last 16, as the country continues to exhibit its incredible depth on the WTA tour.

What’s more, three of them advanced after coming through all-American clashes in the third round, with Williams stopping Collins, Kenin beating Jessica Pegula and Gauff getting past the injured Jennifer Brady. 

With Madison Keys also advancing to the last 32, there were seven American women in the third round.

It illustrates why competition remains incredibly tough among these women for US team spots at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.