News flash: 17-year-old American skier Mikaela Shiffrin is freaking good.
Having won two of the last three World Cup slalom races ahead of Tuesday’s event in Flachau, Austria, Shiffrin made it three for four with another victory – by almost a full second.
German Maria Hoefl-Riesch was in first place after the first run, just over a half second faster than Shiffrin. But in her second trip down the hill, Shiffrin blazed down the course in 56.19 seconds to take the lead. Hoefl-Riesch then missed a gate near the bottom of the course and recorded a DNF, handing the victory to the speedy teenager.
Shiffrin now leads the World Cup slalom standings by more than 80 points over Slovenian Tina Maze.
Shiffrin was compared to Austrian Alpine legend Annemarie Moser-Proell on Tuesday because her slalom win occurred when she was 17 years, 308 days old – the same exact age as Moser-Proell was when she won her third event, a record. Moser-Proell won three Olympic medals (one gold, two silver) and four world championship titles during her career, which ended in 1980.
“She is way ahead of her age,” Austria’s technical head coach Guenter Obkircher told the Associated Press. “She races fast and has a very solid technique. And she has this youthful carefreeness.”
Shiffrin’s U.S. teammate Ted Ligety has also noticed her talent.
“She is a solid skier for sure,” Ligety said. “She has been so good the last few races and last year, too. She doesn’t seem like a 17-year-old when she’s on the hill.”
Shiffrin already had become the first American to win two World Cup races before turning 18. Now she’s the first American to win three races. And she recently picked up some famous Twitter followers. Not bad for a World Cup rookie.
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.
No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).
No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.