French Open takeaways: Iga's dominance, Tsonga's farewell highlight Week 1

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French Open takeaways: Iga's dominance, Tsonga's farewell highlight Week 1

It’s been an eventful French Open in both singles events.

Most of the top men’s seeds progressed to the Round of 16, while the women’s draw has seen its share of shocking upsets.

Here are five takeaways from the first week of action in Paris.

Iga keeps rolling

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Iga Swiatek’s dominance has carried over to the French Open. She’s won 77.4% of her first-serve points and converted 16-of-28 break points. The world No. 1 has yet to drop a set through three matches and is riding a 31-match winning streak. Only three players on the WTA Tour have strung together more wins since 2000. A run to the title in Paris would equal Venus Williams for the WTA’s longest winning streak in the 21st century.

Swiatek has a few things working in her favor heading into the second week of action. The Polish star knows what it takes to win a major, having captured her maiden Grand Slam at Roland Garros as a teenager just two years ago. Swiatek’s 89.5% career win percentage at the French Open is the fourth-highest in the Open era, per OptaAce.

Her path to a second Suzanne-Lenglen Cup got easier with Paula Badosa, Aryna Sabalenka, and Angelique Kerber all eliminated in the third round. No. 11 Jessica Pegula is the highest seed remaining in Swiatek’s half of the draw.

FAA looks to crash party

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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are each a win away from a blockbuster quarterfinal matchup, but Felix Auger-Aliassime might have something to say to those already getting their popcorn ready. The 21-year-old has been one of the sport’s rising stars since turning pro in 2017, and he’s putting things together at the highest level.

Auger-Aliassime snapped his 0-8 skid in ATP finals at the Rotterdam Open in February and reached two consecutive Masters 1000 quarterfinals in the leadup to Paris. He’s advanced to the final eight in each of his previous three major appearances, including a semifinal run at the 2021 US Open.

Extending that streak against Nadal will be no easy task as the King of Clay has lost only three times in his entire career at Roland Garros. However, Auger-Aliassime has a weapon that none of Nadal’s counterparts had – the Spaniard’s uncle.

Toni Nadal began coaching Auger-Aliassime in April 2021 after guiding his nephew to 16 Grand Slams during their partnership. It’s no coincidence that Auger-Aliassime has achieved his best major results since Toni joined his team. The unique insight provided by Toni might just help the Canadian do something very few have done.

Bottom half of women’s draw wide open

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While Swiatek is an overwhelming favorite in the top half of the women’s draw, the opposite end of the bracket could go all kinds of ways.

No. 17 Leylah Fernandez is the highest remaining seed and won the French Open junior girls’ singles title in 2019. Last year’s US Open runner-up will now square off against fellow young gun Amanda Anisimova, who was three games away from the 2019 French Open women’s final.

Teen sensation Coco Gauff is seeking her second straight quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Like Fernandez, Gauff already has a French Open junior title in her trophy cabinet. The 18-year-old’s next opponent is three-time doubles Grand Slam winner Elise Mertens.

Sloane Stephens is the lone major singles champion left in the bottom half of the draw. The American has won more matches in Paris than at any other Grand Slam and is just four years removed from a finals appearance. She’ll take on Swiss lefty Jil Teichmann for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Alcaraz has heart of champion

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Carlos Alcaraz showed the ability to dig deep at last year’s US Open when he won a pair of five-set matches en route to his first career major quarterfinal. The teenager demonstrated that same heart once again in a 4.5-hour marathon against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round.

Alcaraz had an answer every time Ramos-Vinolas put him on the ropes. The 19-year-old saved a match point in the fourth set, immediately breaking Ramos-Vinolas after he dropped serve in the previous game. Alcaraz found himself in another hole shortly after evening the match at two sets apiece. Down 0-3 in the fifth set, he performed another escape act, winning six of the next seven games to keep his tournament hopes alive.

It was clear Alcaraz didn’t bring his A-game as he overcame 74 unforced errors and squandered 23 break points. Still, the character he showed in overcoming those struggles bodes well for his future aspirations.

Au revoir Jo ??

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s career came to an end with his first-round defeat to Casper Ruud. It was an emotional farewell for the former world No. 5 as his old coaches, family, and fellow French players came out for his last professional match. As Tsonga stepped up to the baseline to serve for the final time, he fought back tears as the Parisian crowd rose to give him a standing ovation.

Tsonga is the first member of the “New Musketeers,” which also consisted of Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, and Gilles Simon, to walk away from the game. The French quartet was expected to compete for Grand Slams when they ascended on the scene nearly 20 years ago. Instead, Tsonga and his countrymen joined the long list of players who fell victim to the Big Three.

Despite falling short of a major, Tsonga is one of the best players France has ever produced. The 37-year-old was a member of the country’s Davis Cup-winning team in 2017, and his 121 Grand Slam match wins leads all Frenchmen. He’s also one of just three players with victories over Nadal, Djokovic, and Roger Federer when each was ranked No. 1 in the world.