Tennis-Collins, Jabeur outside shots for maiden Grand Slam title at French Open

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 10:14 AM

By Aadi Nair

(Reuters) – Iga Swiatek’s victory at this month’s Italian Open has nailed down her status as pre-tournament favourite ahead of the French Open, while Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have also been in fine form in the build-up to the clay-court Grand Slam.

However, should any of the “Big Three” on the women’s tour falter at Roland Garros, there are a few promising contenders ready to step up.

American Danielle Collins, ranked 12th, will be eyeing a shot at a first Grand Slam title to cap off a barnstorming final year on the tour, after announcing in January that she would retire at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old has been playing some of the best tennis of her career, winning 15 straight matches before losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid Open last month, during which she claimed a first-ever Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open as well as the Charleston Open title.

She also reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open, where she was once again beaten by Sabalenka but, despite the defeat, it is clear the American’s stock is on the rise.

“It’s really up and down sometimes and it’s not always inch by inch by inch going up,” Collins told reporters during her Italian Open campaign.

“It’s been nice, like, to have a stretch where I’ve really been climbing because it’s not always like that. I think you have to be really happy for yourself in these moments because it doesn’t always work out that way.”

Collins’ compatriot Madison Keys is another in-form player on the clay swing and should be exciting to watch in Paris.

The big-hitting American put together strong runs in Madrid and Rome, claiming wins over higher-ranked Coco Gauff, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Ons Jabeur.

Tunisian Jabeur, who has struggled in the first half of the season, failed to win more than one match in any of the first seven tournaments she has played.

Things appeared to be looking up for the world number nine at the Madrid Open, which Jabeur won in 2022, but after a strong run to the quarter-finals she was eliminated by Keys.

That defeat was followed by another disheartening first-round exit in Rome but Jabeur can take heart from the fact she has been in a similar position in the past, overcoming injury issues to reach the final at Wimbledon last year.

Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is another player whose career seems revived, with the Latvian having climbed back into the top 10 after struggling following her 2017 Grand Slam victory.

She reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and has already won two titles this season, lifting trophies in Linz and Adelaide.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)