From Iga Swiatek to everyone else: Breaking down the men's and women's French Open field (2024)

  • From Iga Swiatek to everyone else: Breaking down the men's and women's French Open field (1)

    Bill Connelly, ESPN Staff WriterMay 24, 2024, 08:00 AM ET


      Bill Connelly is a staff writer for

From 2002 to 2004, the French Open men's draw was an absolute free-for-all. The No. 1 seed lost in the third round twice and the fourth round once. Only three of 12 semifinalists were seeded in the top six. Three different players -- Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gaston Gaudio -- won the title.

In 2005, Rafael Nadal arrived at Roland Garros and removed all mystery from the proceedings. He rolled to the title, then did so again in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. On the rare occasion that he didn't win, generally Novak Djokovic (three times) or Roger Federer (once) did. Only Stan Wawrinka's 2015 title came as anything resembling a surprise, and it happened at least in part because Nadal was coming back from a wrist injury.

Therefore, the 2024 French Open is as wide open on the men's side as it has been in 20 years. Nadal is attempting to maintain a goodbye tour after a long time on the sideline but is just 5-3 on clay this year. Djokovic, who recently joined Nadal in the "age 37 club," has struggled so much to find a rhythm that he is playing in the Geneva tournament this week in hopes of finding his misplaced form. Carlos Alcaraz, last year's French Open runner-up and a two-time Slam champion, is battling a lingering right forearm injury. Jannik Sinner, the Australian Open winner and by far the best men's player of 2024, suffered a hip injury a few weeks ago and isn't sure how well he will compete.

All four men are still in the field, mind you. So is 2016 finalist Andy Murray, another celebrated veteran on a farewell tour. The retiring Dominic Thiem, however, is not, as he was inexplicably denied a wild card despite reaching the semis in Paris four times and the finals twice. The big names are here, but all are mysteries. If you're a Stefanos Tsitsipas, or an Alexander Zverev, or a Casper Ruud, there may never be a better time to strike.

On the women's side, however, it's Iga Swiatek vs. the field. Swiatek, the three-time French Open champion, is 21-1 on clay, with just five dropped sets, since last year's French Open began. ESPN BET lists her title odds at -160, meaning she has better odds than the other 127 players in the field combined. She's the best player in the world, and clay is her best surface.

Thanks to both the best-of-three format and Nadal, Djokovic and Federer's dominance over the past two decades, we're very much not used to the men's draw being more wide open than the women's, but here we are. With the first round almost underway, let's look at 20 men and women with particularly interesting shots at the respective 2024 crowns.

Note: Within each tier, players are listed in order of their ESPN BET title odds.

Tier 1: Iga

Iga Swiatek
ESPN BET initial title odds: -160 (equivalent to 61.5%)

She can lose on clay: She did so against Elena Rybakina in Stuttgart in April, after all. She can lose at Roland Garros, too: She has done so to Maria Sakkari (2021 quarterfinals) and, in her first French Open, to Simona Halep (2019 fourth round). But to put her clay-court dominance into perspective, we have to compare her to her professed idol, Rafa Nadal.

Swiatek will turn 23 in a week, just as Nadal turned 23 during the 2009 French Open. If Swiatek wins the title at Roland Garros in two weeks, here's how she will stack up against the greatest clay-courter of all time:

French Open titles at 23: Nadal 4, Swiatek 4
French Open record: Nadal 31-1, Swiatek 35-2
Titles at three next biggest clay-court tournaments*: Nadal 9, Swiatek 6
Career win percentage on clay: Swiatek 0.879, Nadal 0.875

(*I'm counting these as Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid on the men's tour and Rome, Madrid and Stuttgart on the women's.)

Honestly? I did not expect those numbers to be that close. Again, this counts seven more hypothetical wins at Roland Garros over the next two weeks, but if she pulls that off, she'll basically be matching an unmatchable pace. That is a jarring thought. And it earns her a tier to herself on this list.

Tier 2: The other favorites

Carlos Alcaraz
ESPN BET initial title odds: +260 (27.8%)

We've learned a lot this spring about just how hard it is to maintain elite form. Carlos Alcaraz found it at Indian Wells, plowing through Alexander Zverev, Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev in the final three rounds and dropping just one set in the process. But he suffered a meek loss to Grigor Dimitrov in Miami and barely beat Jan-Lennard Struff before falling to Andrey Rublev in Madrid, his only event on the spring clay-court swing. He pulled out of Rome to rest the forearm that has been nagging him, and his form as he arrives at Roland Garros is a total mystery.

Alcaraz looked spectacular while reaching the French Open semifinals last year, and once there, he split two brilliant sets with Djokovic before his body broke down. We know what he's capable of when his body cooperates, but we'll see if it does, and we'll see how much he trusts it.

Novak Djokovic
ESPN BET initial title odds: +300 (32.3%)

At 37, he still looks like Novak Djokovic. He's as flexible as ever, and when he's in a good rhythm, it's like he's exactly the same player he was in 2011, and 2015, and 2021, and 2023. (Those are all the years when he won three Slams. He has done that four times! That's ridiculous!) But that makes it a much stranger experience when he proceeds to not play like Novak Djokovic.

He lost to 20-year-old Luca Nardi at Indian Wells. He lost to Casper Ruud -- who he might have to face in the quarterfinals -- for the first time at Monte Carlo. He got blown off the court by Alejandro Tabilo in Rome. Djokovic is just 14-6 in 2024, and he dropped a set in five of the wins. He has shuffled up most of his coaching team, and in a desperate search for good rhythm, he entered this week's Geneva Open for the first time despite the risk of extra pre-Paris fatigue.

It would be just like Djokovic to emerge from his muddling form just in time to win, but this is the shakiest he has looked since 2017-18, and he had injuries to blame then.

Jannik Sinner
ESPN BET initial title odds: +500 (16.7%)

Assuming his recent hip injury doesn't turn into something long-term, Sinner is going to become the No. 1 player in the world pretty soon. He's the best player in the world in 2024, and it's not particularly close. He manhandled Djokovic, then came back from two sets down to beat Medvedev and win the Australian Open. He dropped a total of two sets while winning in Rotterdam and Miami. In his past three matches in Miami, he dropped just 10 games.

He's 28-2 on the year, losing only to Alcaraz in Indian Wells and, while injured, Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo. And it's not even an easy 28-2! More than half of those wins have come against players ranked in the top 30. He has played 20 sets against top-10 opponents and has won 14 of them. It wasn't hard to see a breakthrough coming, but the quickness with which he took over the world was still a stunner. The question is, what will we see from him in Paris? Knowing how tricky and foreboding a hip injury can be in this sport, he wasn't even sure he was going to play the French Open until recently. He's keeping expectations tamped down, and we'll see if that's a smoke screen or something more based in reality.

Aryna Sabalenka
ESPN BET initial title odds: +550 (15.4%)

The reigning Australian Open champion has established herself as a worthy No. 2 on clay. At Madrid and Rome, she beat Elena Rybakina once and a ridiculously in-form Danielle Collins twice and made both finals ... where she lost to Swiatek by a little (Madrid) and a lot (Rome). It's pretty incredible that she has reached the semifinals of six straight Slams (8 of 10) and won two, and that has only established her as the second-best player in the world, but Swiatek's clay dominance only takes so much away from how well Sabalenka is playing at the moment.

If Swiatek slips up, she's the most likely player to take advantage.

Coco Gauff
ESPN BET initial title odds: +900 (10%)

Sabalenka raised the degree of difficulty on herself in 2022 by basically forgetting how to serve. She double-faulted more than 10% of the time that year and held serve only 68% of the time, far less than the Swiateks (77%) and Rybakinas (79%) of the world. This forced her to become more resourceful in other aspects of her game, and she still reached the semis of the US Open and finished the year in the top five. And once her serve returned to normal in 2023, her entire game had taken a huge step forward.

At the moment, you have to hope for a similar plot line for Coco Gauff. After double-faulting 5.1% of the time and holding serve at a 73.4% clip in 2023, she's now at 8.9% and 69.9%, respectively, in 2024. In three clay-court events, those numbers are 11.3% and 64.1%. That she still reached the semifinals in Rome despite handing opponents so many free points was a reasonably encouraging sign. Her ability to win ugly has completely changed her trajectory over the past 10 months or so. But until her wayward serve is back under control, she's probably the fourth-best player in the world at absolute best.

Elena Rybakina
ESPN BET initial title odds: +1200 (7.7%)

Rybakina's superpower is that she's just always there. The 2022 Wimbledon champion is 2-2 against Swiatek and Sabalenka in 2024 and 28-3 against everyone else. She has reached at least the semifinals in five of her past six events, winning two. She's the only player in the past 13 months to beat Swiatek on clay, and she might have had a chance to do so at Roland Garros last year if she hadn't had to withdraw with respiratory problems.

With every year that goes by, the 24-year-old further smooths out whatever rough patches in her game remain, and she's going to be a contender in every Slam she enters, on any surface, for years to come.

Tier 3: Good in Paris

Alexander Zverev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +750 (11.8%)

His serve just never misses. Zverev bombed his way past Alcaraz at the Australian Open, and only Sinner (92.9%) has held serve a higher percentage of the time than he has (90.3%) this year. Zverev has reached three straight French Open semifinals, and he's serving better than he did in any of those tournaments. He had the misfortune of drawing Nadal in the first round, but there's no question which of those players is in better form at the moment.

Zverev will be playing in Paris while his domestic abuse allegations">domestic abuse hearing begins. He is not required to attend in person and has said he will not.

Stefanos Tsitsipas
ESPN BET initial title odds: +900 (10.%)

If not Zverev, then what about the reigning Monte Carlo champion and 2021 French Open runner-up? Tsitsipas battled nagging injuries and fell out of the top 10 in February -- it marked the first time in 50 years that there were no players with one-handed backhands in the top 10 -- but he has since gone 13-3 with two finals appearances in clay-court season, and over the past four years he's 18-4 at Roland Garros.

Casper Ruud
ESPN BET initial title odds: +1200 (7.7%)

Ruud might be an increasingly clay-centric force in the tennis world -- over the past year, he's 25-7 on clay and just 27-14 on all other surfaces -- and he remains maddeningly inconsistent even on the dirt. This spring, he beat Djokovic for the first time, took down Tsitsipas to win Barcelona ... and then lost back-to-back matches to Felix Auger-Aliassime and Miomir Kecmanovic. Still, he has made two straight finals at Roland Garros, and he tends to play better as a given tournament unfolds. Over the past year he has won just 71% of his matches before the quarterfinals, but he has won 82% of quarters and semis.

Holger Rune
ESPN BET initial title odds: +3300 (2.9%)

He has played in two French Opens, and he has reached the quarterfinals both times. Still only 21, Rune has labored in 2024. He got to No. 4 in the world last fall and reached the final of his first tournament this year (Brisbane), but since then he's just 15-10 on the year and 6-4 in the spring clay-court swing. He's now only the No. 13 seed in Paris, and he might have to play Zverev (or Nadal!) in the fourth round. Injuries, form, confidence ... it has all gone wobbly for Rune. But again, he just turned 21.

Maria Sakkari
ESPN BET initial title odds: +3300 (2.9%)

In 2021, her age-26 season, Sakkari reached both the French Open and US Open semifinals and went 11-4 overall in Slams. She reached the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open, too, but has since gone just 7-8 in Slams. That includes a first-round exit at Roland Garros last year. It's almost like a mental block at this point.

If she's going to right the Slam ship, however, Paris seems like a logical starting point. Sakkari has gone 14-5 since Indian Wells, where she beat Gauff on the way to the finals.

Jelena Ostapenko
ESPN BET initial title odds: +4000 (2.4%)

No one defines a match, for better or worse, more than the 2017 French Open champion. She's going to swing as hard as she can on nearly every ball, and it's either going to go in or out. You are at her mercy. She is famously 4-0 against Swiatek, taking the fight to the World No. 1 better than anyone else, and her overall form in 2024 has been as consistent as ever: She's 22-9 for the year, a 0.710 win percentage that would be the highest of her career if it continues.

Others: Amanda Anisimova (2019 semifinalist), Victoria Azarenka (2013 semifinalist), Beatriz Haddad Maia (2022 semifinalist), Ons Jabeur (2023 quarterfinalist), Daria Kasatkina (2022 semifinalist), Sofia Kenin (2020 finalist), Madison Keys (2018 semifinalist), Karen Khachanov (2023 quarterfinalist), Barbora Krejcikova (2021 champion), Gael Monfils (2008 semifinalist), Andy Murray (2016 finalist), Nadia Podoroska (2020 semifinalist), Sloane Stephens (2018 finalist), Elina Svitolina (2023 quarterfinalist), Marketa Vondrousova (2019 finalist), Stan Wawrinka (2015 champion)

Tier 4: Good in 2024

Danielle Collins
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2000 (4.8%)

Best farewell tour ever? The 30-year-old Collins will retire at the end of the year and has proceeded to play the finest ball of her life since the announcement. She has won 21 of her past 23 matches, and for the year she's 1-5 against Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina and 32-4 against everyone else. She landed in Swiatek's quarter, but that might be as much of an issue for Swiatek as it is for her.

Andrey Rublev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500 (3.8%)

It's one of the most mixed-bag accomplishments imaginable: The 26-year-old Rublev has reached 10 Slam quarterfinals in his career, including six of his past seven. That's more than just about any professional could hope to accomplish. But he's also 0-10 in said quarters.

Getting to the final eight in Paris could mean beating Tsitsipas, who is generally better than him on clay. But he's 24-8 on the year, and he's forever dangerous.

Daniil Medvedev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500 (3.8%)

Medvedev and clay have not always gotten along with each other, but after going just 8-7 on the surface from 2020 to 2022, he's 16-6 in 2023-24. His overall win percentage this year (0.774) is fourth-best overall, and while he probably won't win seven matches in a row in Paris, he's always a threat to win a few.

Mirra Andreeva
ESPN BET initial title odds: +3300 (2.9%)

An injury slowed the 17-year-old's supersonic ascent this spring, but while she's still only No. 38 in the world, she has won a top-10 worthy 52.0% of her points in 2024. She's also 4-2 against top-20 players this year. It's only a matter of time until she enjoys a massive Slam breakthrough.

Hubert Hurkacz
ESPN BET initial title odds: +4000 (2.4%)

After nearly slipping out of the top 20 last summer, Hurkacz has charged back into the top 10 with a pair of finals appearances in 2024, and despite his "big-man game" tendencies, he's 11-3 on clay this spring as well. And while beating Nadal doesn't quite mean as much as it used to, watching Hurkacz wallop him, 6-1 6-3, in Rome was a shock to the system.

Grigor Dimitrov
ESPN BET initial title odds: +4000 (2.4%)

Clay is his worst surface, and he has never made it past the fourth round at Roland Garros (he has made a semifinal at each of the other three Slams), but he's 24-8 in 2024 -- only five players have a better win percentage -- and he seemed to take the "no one-handed backhands in the top 10" development as a personal affront. Is it too late for the 33-year-old to make a run in Paris?

Others: Sebastian Baez (17-6 on clay), Marie Bouzkova (4-1 on clay), Luciano Darderi (14-6 on clay), Alex de Minaur (25-10 in 2024), Taylor Fritz (52.8% of points won), Marta Kostyuk (19-9), Emma Navarro (23-10), Jasmine Paolini (53.9% of points won on clay), Tommy Paul (52.8% of points won), Yulia Putintseva (6-2 on clay), Ben Shelton (6-2 on clay), Jan-Lennard Struff (9-3 on clay), Qinwen Zheng (Australian Open finalist)

Tier 5: Rafa

Rafael Nadal
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2000 (4.8%)

As an unseeded entry, Nadal could have drawn anyone from a qualifier to the top-seeded Djokovic in the first round. He got someone hotter than Djokovic instead: Zverev. Unless he pulls off his best performance in two years, that probably means his stay at Roland Garros won't be long. His blowout loss to another big, consistent server (Hurkacz) in Rome was not a good omen in that regard.

Still, you can't write a French Open contenders list without including the 14-time champ. Just two years ago, he won the tournament despite getting injections in his foot and calling his foot "asleep." If anyone was ever going to find some final reserve stash of miraculous play in any locale in the world, it would be Nadal, and it would be at Roland Garros. If he can take that first set against Zverev, the crowd alone could carry him from there.

From Iga Swiatek to everyone else: Breaking down the men's and women's French Open field (2024)
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