UPDATE: In a lopsided encounter, the 19-year-old has sent the 2019 finalist packing, 6-1, 6-2.
Last year’s surprise finalist Marketa Vondrouosova will not have the luxury of slowly working her way into the tournament, as her first round opponent, Iga Swiatek, is poised for a major breakthrough.
According to UTR, the 19-year-old Pole, currently rated the 21st best player in the world, has a slight advantage. She defeated Vondrouosova 7-6 (2), 6-0, at an exhibition in July, and made the fourth round last year in her first Roland Garros main draw. Swiatek is as skilled as can be, and routinely makes the hardest shots in the game appear all too easy.
In the clip below, she channeled her inner Monfils against Vondrousova with a sleek mid-shot 180. Turning your back to the net is never a good idea, but it’s more acceptable when you look this smooth while doing it.
In 2019, one of Swiatek’s drop shots was crowned the WTA Shot of the Year.
But Vondrousova loves clay. She’s 79-23 on the surface throughout her ITF & WTA career. After flaming out in the second round of the US Open with a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich, she immediately righted the ship in Rome with a semifinal run, which included a stunning 6-3, 6-0, quarterfinal victory over Elina Svitolina.
The Czech combines a loopy, spinny lefty forehand with a fierce and flat two-handed backhand. The variance between the two shots is enough to frustrate any opponent, combine that with her deft feel and sneaky good net game, and she can be a nightmare to play. But Swiatek prefers clay too, and boasts an equally impressive 55-11 record on the surface throughout her brief time on the ITF and WTA circuit.
UTR favors Swiatek, but the oddsmakers list Vondrousova as a solid (-175) favorite. This match is a toss-up, and will likely boil down to who better handles the adverse conditions. But the Czech’s variety, as well as her return (she led the WTA in percentage of return points won in 2019 for players with at least 10 matches), should propel her to victory over the talented, but still somewhat inexperienced, Swiatek.
The Pick: Marketa Vondrousova