When it comes to picking favourites for the Roland Garros title, Sam Stosur knows a thing or two about what to look for.
And the Australian champion, who reached the 2010 final in Paris plus another three semifinals, said she cannot look past rampaging world No.1 Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek enters Roland Garros – a tournament she won in 2020 – on a 28-match winning streak, having scooped five consecutive titles: Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome.
Speaking to ausopen.com, Stosur said Swiatek was the favourite according to every possible metric.
Firstly, there is the belief the 20-year-old Polish star has accrued throughout 2022.
"If you're winning back-to-back titles, you're feeling incredible, that confidence grows," said Stosur, who dismissed the idea Swiatek would have benefitted from a recent loss to ease pressure in Paris.
"It doesn't matter what's going on, you're going to step out onto that court and think that you're going to win every single match. And I think that (feeling) is just building and building and building.
"Any small weakness, or any small bit of doubt, is getting erased every time she steps on court with another win.
"I think it's pretty hard to go past someone who's been so dominant for the last couple of months on tour ... and winning a lot of these matches relatively comfortably.”
Secondly, few of Swiatek’s rivals enter the tournament with significant form or confidence.
Stosur felt Spaniards Paula Badosa and Garbine Muguruza were struggling and noted that defending champion and world No.2 Barbora Krejcikova has not played since February.
Fellow top-10 stars Anett Kontaveit, Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Pliskova and Danielle Collins have shown patchy form, as has Maria Sakkari, a 2021 semifinalist in Paris who has stagnated since reaching the Indian Wells final in March.
"I think Ons Jabeur is one of those names you've definitely got to throw into the mix to potentially vie for the title, given she won Madrid and then made final of Rome, and is having a great year. It's kind of a fairy-tale story, given what she's achieving on the world stage from Tunisia," Stosur said.
"Besides Ons, there's no player I think at the moment that has kind of said, I'm a potential for the French. But it's Roland Garros, it's a Grand Slam, and there's always something random that happens. And somebody makes it through that you don't expect.”
Thirdly, there are the conditions.
Stosur, 38, is no longer playing singles, but has travelled to France to play doubles with new partner Latisha Chan, and noted the warm conditions impacting the courts.
"It seems like it's going to be a pretty good summer. I haven't been to Paris yet, but I'm in Strasbourg just a couple of hours away, and it is very lively and bouncy and the ball's hopping, and the balls are pretty light," she said.
"One thing I've noticed so far is if somebody comes at you with an aggressive ball, if you try to guide or push it back, it just flies. You have to combat that with that same sort of velocity.
"In all honesty, Iga's game matches very well to those courts."
Stosur would know, having practised with Swiatek at the Australian Open earlier this year and in Cincinnati in 2021.
The Australian said she has always liked the way Swiatek plays and admired the youngster's balanced attitude.
"What kind of struck me was that every time I pulled her out wide to her backhand how strong she was (at) end-range," Stosur observed.
"And just the heaviness of her ball off both sides... she's picked up her game even since Melbourne, but back then it was still coming onto you every time. Her movement's great and obviously her mentality is the best in the world at the moment. There's not really a glaring weakness in her game.
"Her work-ethic seems extraordinarily high, but she can enjoy it as well. A good point will happen, she'll have a laugh. After our practice, she was like 'can we keep five minutes, I want to do this volley game with you'. And I was like, OK? So we played some random game that I did not understand (laughter).
"I think that helps keep her relaxed."
Swiatek has performed at such a high level that not only is she unbeaten in 28 matches, but she has also won 42 of her past 43 sets.
Four of her five consecutive titles have come at WTA 1000 events, and she is more than 2000 ranking points clear of No.2 Krejcikova.
Stosur said she was enjoying watching Swiatek attain such incredible heights.
"Iga is so dominant at the moment, she's the clear No.1. And that is a spot that the women's side hasn't had I guess for a couple of years, obviously besides Ash (Barty) when she was there,” Stosur said.
“I know Ons won Madrid so was maybe a little bit tapped by the time she got to the Rome final (where she lost to Swiatek), but you could say that Iga's played every match possible for the last two months as well, so it's amazing to see and it's really good to watch.
“She's definitely the favourite going in (to Roland Garros). I guess you just hope she hasn't done all her run too soon.
“But I don't care what anyone says – you want to win every match, and that's exactly what she's been able to do so far.”