On the 10th October 2020, a Polish international won a Grand Slam singles title for the first time in the country’s history. 19-year-old superstar Iga Swiatek defeated Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in a dominant display to capture the French Open trophy, despite the odds being stacked heavily against her from the very beginning of the tournament.
Swiatek met and broke a number of impressive records along the way. She entered the competition ranked world no.54, which makes her the lowest-ranked player to win the French Open since rankings were first brought into tennis back in 1975. The teenager also became the youngest woman to win the French since Monica Seles in 1992 and the first since 2007 to win without dropping a single set; in fact, Swiatek only dropped 28 games throughout the entire tournament, which is the fewest number since the 20 dropped by the great Steffi Graf in 1988.
En route to the final, she took on number-one seed Simona Halep in a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing which lasted just 67 minutes. The Romanian was full of praise for Swiatek, telling reporters “All the credit to her, she played unbelievable and she was everywhere, and she hit all the balls in very strong.” As for Iga, she claims that this was the victory that spurred her on and gave her the belief that she could really go all the way, and understandably so – she truly cemented herself as one to watch in Women’s Tennis for years to come.
Swiatek’s Playing Style
She is an incredibly well-rounded player who is as good defending shots as she is attacking through them. Swiatek’s backhand is around as quick as that of the most powerful men’s player, Dominic Thiem, of whom she shares a handful of other similar qualities. The Pole is an incredible athlete with impressive stamina and agility – as Halep emphasised, she meets every inch of the court and it is difficult for opponents to wear her down. Boasting a powerful serve and an effortless drop-shot, Swiatek’s arsenal is admirable and will certainly be feared by all who come up against her in Grand Slam tournaments to come.
So, where does she go from here? Such a successful beginning to her career will only come with heavy expectations, but she undoubtedly has the talent to live up to these and even progress beyond them. Speaking to the press, she reiterated her hopes of attending the delayed Tokyo Olympics hopefully taking place this upcoming summer. Swiatek took home the double’s gold medal in the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games two years ago with Slovenian partner Kaja Juvan.
Her father, Tomasz Swiatek, was an Olympic rower and helped his country finish a respectable 7th overall in the 1988 Summer Olympics. This family history no doubt gives her extra motivation and something to strive for. “I always dreamed of the Olympics… I know it’s not the same for other tennis players, but for me, it’s really something special. I will fight for a medal.”
One interesting thing about Iga Swiatek is that she has a psychologist on her side, Daria Abramowicz. This is unique and has proven very helpful throughout her road to success thus far. She opened up about her worries surrounding COVID-19 and the break in tennis action, and her psychologist would have certainly helped her prepare for the inevitable return; her mental strength and resilience helped her along the way towards her first Grand Slam title.
Determination and mental toughness are just as important as the physical side of tennis; as an individual sport, it can be tough to overcome deficits and breakpoints without the motivation of team-mates. The presence and support of fans helps to build character, however only a very limited amount were permitted at Roland-Garros in the summer. Of course, the players still have their coach in the stands, but a psychologist will certainly help better-prepare Swiatek for all the battles she will face at her tournaments, and could help put her a step-ahead of her opponents when the going gets tough.
To summarise, Iga Swiatek’s future is bright. Very bright. She has all of the desired characteristics to make it to the very peak of Tennis; her career has begun with a Grand Slam title, and I’m certain it will finish with a fair amount more.