| By Brian Coleman
Photo Credit: Simon Bruty/USTA

 

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek shocked the world earlier this fall with a truly dominating fortnight in Paris, France. Swiatek became the first player from Poland ever to win a Grand Slam and did so in grand fashion in the City of Love.

“Even though you’re really young and you’re an underdog, you can do a lot in a sport like tennis,” said Swiatek. “On one hand, it’s pretty inspiring. Sometimes I caught myself visualizing that I’m also winning a Grand Slam. But on the other hand, it was also really far away. Right now I’m here and I’m a Grand Slam champion. It’s crazy.”

Swiatek’s run at Roland Garros culminated with a 6-4, 6-1 win over American Sofia Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion, as she captured her first ever WTA title in dominating style.

“You believe in things, but in the back of your head you know that there’s going to be a huge amount of work that you have to do to win that,” she added. “Then after two weeks of great playing, you already have it. It’s just overwhelming.”

When looking at Swiatek’s numbers during her two weeks in Paris is as shocking as it is impressive. For someone who had never won a WTA title prior to Roland Garros, she looked like a seasoned vet in her demolition of any opponent who came in front of her. Swiatek did not drop a set all tournament long, becoming the first woman to do so since Justine Henin in 2007, and she entered the tournament ranked 54th in the world, making her the lowest-ranked woman to win the French title since the tour’s computer rankings began in 1975. In addition, she lost just 28 games in her entire two weeks, tied for the second-fewest ever.

She attributed much of her success to a loose attitude and going for her shots.

“I just did everything I’ve done in the previous rounds,” she said after defeating Kenin in the finals. “I focused on technique and tactics. I tried to get rid of expectations, just play one ball after another. I didn’t really care if I’m going to lose or win. I think the main key was just keeping my expectations low.”

In the finals, Swiatek blasted 25 winners to just 17 unforced errors, and broke Kenin six times in her nine chances.

“She obviously played a really good match,” said Kenin. “She’s really hot right now, playing some really great tennis.”

Swiatek now becomes the latest young tennis star on the women’s side, joining the likes of Kenin, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreecu, and she is still a teenager until May 2021. She has also become a hero to many in her native Poland, being the nation’s first Grand Slam champion, which earned her praise from the country’s biggest sporting star, soccer player Robert Lewandowski, and comparisons to now-retired Agnieszka Radwanska, who once climbed to as high as No. 2 in the world rankings.

“I just feel like I kind of made history. But I still think that Radwanska, she achieved a lot because she played on the top level of the WTA tour, I don’t know, 12 years,” she said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to compare us. But I think I have to be really consistent for the next couple of years for everybody to name me the best player in Poland because I still have a lot to do.”

Swiatek has certainly proven herself to the tour after completing one of the most dominant two weeks we have seen at a Grand Slam in recent memory, and will be out to back up her play in 2021.

“I’m just proud of myself,” she said. “I’ve done a great job the past two weeks. I wasn’t expecting to win this trophy. It’s obviously amazing for me. It’s a life-changing experience.”

 

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com