RG 2023: What we learned from women's event

Swiatek reigns supreme as a host of other names make their marks in Paris

Iga Swiatek, Karolina Muchova, finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Defending champion Iga Swiatek restored order in Paris, while a string of inspired contenders made it a fortnight to remember at Roland-Garros.

Here's what we learned from the women's event.

Swiatek in rarefied air

Prior to her campaign for a third Roland-Garros trophy, Swiatek fielded recurrent questions of a potential Big Three in women’s tennis.

Major champions Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina emerged as genuine threats on clay, following WTA 1000 titles leading in, but when all was said and done in Paris, one woman stood clear.

The first woman to defend Roland-Garros since Justine Henin in 2007, Swiatek passed her toughest test in a Grand Slam final against Karolina Muchova and departed Porte d’Auteuil with the No.1 ranking secured.

“I look at my clay-court season and I see on every tournament I really played consistently,” the 22-year-old said. “I reached quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals, I won Stuttgart, I won this tournament, I'm kind of just focused on myself and I don't care about the other two players.”

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, trophy shoot© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Muchova marches in as genuine Slam contender

Injury-ravaged seasons made it difficult to gauge whether 26-year-old Muchova would ever fulfill her potential on a major stage.

But after her dash to a maiden Grand Slam final in Paris any doubts were quickly silenced.

The world No.43 came into her showdown with Swiatek a perfect five from five against top-three opponents.

After saving match point to deny second seed Sabalenka in the semi-finals, the ice-cool Czech had the Pole on the ropes when she surged back and twice held a break in the final set before her 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 defeat.

Far from disgraced, she left Paris with her head held high and a top-10 ranking to boot.

"I believed in every Grand Slam I played before and I've never played a final. So the belief is there, but that I actually achieved it, it's a very nice and warm feeling for me,” Muchova said.

"It's good for the confidence. It says to me that I'm able to do this, to do these big results."

South American women have new standard-bearer

Following in the footsteps of three-time Roland-Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten, Brazil has finally found its next great women’s hope in Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Carving out a name for herself as the master of the marathon matches at Roland-Garros this year, the 27-year-old outlasted Sara Sorribes Tormo in a near-four-hour epic and backed it up with victory over seventh seed Ons Jabeur for her maiden Slam semi-final.

The 14th seed ultimately fell to eventual champion Swiatek but was far from overawed.

“Our first goal was to go to the third round. Before Roland-Garros 2023, my best result in Grand Slam was second round,” Haddad Maia said. “So I think we worked very hard, and me and my team, we deserve and we need to be very proud of ourselves.”

Svitolina, Tsurenko make inspired runs

Contesting her first major since the 2022 Australian Open and since becoming a mother, a resurgent Elina Svitolina drew on huge support in Paris to reach the quarter-finals.

Playing amid the backdrop of the ongoing war in her home country, the Ukrainian backed up her Strasbourg title win leading in with four straight main draw triumphs, including over last year’s semi-finalist Daria Kasatkina.

“I definitely wasn’t dreaming about this when giving birth in October last year,” Svitolina said. “It’s unbelievable for me to be able to compete here and go all way to the quarter-finals.”

Compatriot Lesia Tsurenko also enjoyed her best run in Paris, beating former major champions Barbora Krejcikova and Bianca Andreescu en route to the fourth round.

The 34-year-old paid special tribute to her countrywoman.

“Her case, her return, is inspirational,” Tsurenko said. “Of course, we keep in touch. We support each other. Definitely it's great to have someone like her, a great champion in tennis, in Ukrainian tennis history.”

Elina Svitolina, Roland-Garros 2023, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Future in good hands

Following the heartache of a three-hour, 18-minute defeat in the Australian Open girls’ singles decider to good friend Alina Korneeva, Mirra Andreeva dusted herself off and moved on emphatically.

The 16-year-old made waves in Madrid leading in with a  run to the round of 16 but it was in Paris, the charming, care-free teenager declared her future intentions.

Andreeva won through three rounds of qualifying and reached the third round of the main draw where she took a set off sixth seed Coco Gauff.

“I know that Djokovic, he did 22 Grand Slams or 23, so I want to go until 25, if it will be possible. I don't know,” she said.

The 15-year-old Korneeva, meanwhile, won her second straight girls’ singles major with victory in the Lucciana Perez Alarcon, the first to do so since Magdalena Maleeva in 1990.

Mirra Andreeva, second round, Roland-Garros 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT