Ahead of this year’s French Open, most of the focus fell on the hotly contested men’s singles competition—in no small part due to the fact that Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are on a collision course for an early face-off in the quarter-finals, thanks to a quirk of this year’s draw. Then, there’s the possibility their dominance could be challenged by the stratospheric rise of the 19-year-old Spanish player Carlos Alcaraz, whose prowess on clay could see him command Roland-Garros for many years to come.
Sure, when compared to these blockbuster match-ups, the women’s singles competition this year has felt a little more staid. (With Ash Barty’s retirement, Serena Williams’s hamstring injury, and Simona Halep knocked out in a surprise second-round defeat, it’s the 20-year-old Polish wunderkind and current world number one Iga Swiatek’s tournament to lose at this point.) But as always, those absences leave room for other talents to come to the fore—and surprisingly, a number of those advancing players are American.
Surprising only because—despite a few exceptions, the most notable being Williams—American players have a tendency to struggle on clay courts, given they predominantly train on hard courts unlike many of their European peers. But within the tournament’s final 16, four so far are Americans, and there’s a possibility they could be joined by Madison Keys, who plays her third-round match against the Kazakhstani player Elena Rybakina later today.