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Dani's Picks: Hantuchova predicts Barty, Swiatek to battle for Roland Garros title
The former world No. 5 also tagged Karolina Pliskova and Bianca Andreescu as players to watch in Paris.
Published May 28, 2021
Watch: Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek last faced off at the Mutua Madrid Open, where Barty won in straight sets.
The second major tournament of 2021 is upon us and the women's draw is replete with big names, all aiming to capture the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. The last two champions, Iga Swiatek and Ashleigh Barty, look ready to put down their best tennis on the terre battue, but can they outfox the other pre-tournament favorites and double up in Paris? Former world No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova makes her picks:
Iga Swiatek (POL): When you win a Grand Slam seemingly out of nowhere, it’s easy for the expectations and pressure to take over, but the soon-to-be 20-year-old has quickly found her momentum, and has remains very solid.
She’s been able to be so solid in backing up her results and that incredible run at Roland Garros. It has surely taken a huge effort to find this level of consistency at such a young age. When I watched her play in Rome, I was in awe of how she handled the final but was even more impressed by matches she won earlier in the week—even when she wasn’t playing well.
She has a natural, pure talent reminiscent of a Martina Hingis or Agnieszka Radwanska, and much like those two players, Iga has very little to work on because she’s had it all, right from the start of her career.
Ashleigh Barty (AUS): Ash is another one with so much natural talent and athleticism, and is clearly capable of translating that to other sports beyond tennis. Whatever she touches, she’s going to be very good at because of her feel for the ball and her superior hand-eye coordination.
I think all of that lends itself to adjusting well to any surface, even though I thought her best results would come on grass. When you’re No. 1 in the world, you have a target on your shoulders all the time, but she’s done so well in the face of so many players who’ve brought their best tennis against her this year. She manages to find ways to turn matches around, which we saw in Miami when she was match points down and later went on to win the tournament.
She has so many different options in her game, and it allows her to deal with whatever is thrown at her.
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR): Aryna just has that kind of power where, on a good day, she can beat anyone off the court, and I have to say I’m not surprised to see her as a Top 3 seed at a Grand Slam. When I saw her coming up on tour, I thought she had so much potential. Perhaps she only needed to mature a bit more to gain that consistency.
The power she’s got through those huge groundstrokes and incredible serves, you just knew it was a matter of time before she put it together. When she does, she reminds me very much of Petra Kvitova, where all you can do is move from side to side, trying to pick up balls. I know I wouldn’t want to be facing her on one of her good days!
Karolina Pliskova (CZE): It’s never easy to take a 6-0, 6-0 loss, especially in the final of a big tournament, but I think Karolina has been around for quite some time now, and she’ll be able to bounce back quite quickly. She still has the serve and huge game.
Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP): Garbiñe is another player I’d like to see do well. A former champion, she really had a phenomenal start to the season. As long as she’s healthy, I think she’s very capable of hitting through these courts with the power she has in her arsenal.
Bianca Andreescu (CAN): With all Bianca has been through, physically, it’s tough to say whether her injuries are bad luck, or if her body is simply predisposed to breaking down more easily, because I’m sure she’s doing all she can to maximize her preparation and prevent injuries. Provided she’s back to her best in Paris, I can see her going far.