It remains to be seen exactly how far Iga Swiatek will go and how many titles she will win, but the signs are that she is here to stay.
The 19-year-old caused one of the biggest shocks in recent memory when she stormed to victory at the French Open last October, and any concerns that she might not back up that success seem to be fading already. She is up to No 15 in the world, reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, where she pushed second seed Simona Halep in three sets, and won the Adelaide International at the weekend with the same dominant form she showed in Paris.
One of the standout aspects of Swiatek’s victories – and one that suggests she will climb much higher than 15 in the rankings - is the way she won her last two tournaments. In Paris she didn’t drop a set over seven matches, in Adelaide she didn’t drop a set over five. She won 75 per cent of the games she played in Paris and broke serve in 70 per cent of her return games. Her serve was only broken five times all week in Adelaide and she held serve in 18-straight service games to close out the tournament. In the final she hit 22 winners to six unforced errors and lost only six points on her serve.
Nadal has given me extra motivation, says Swiatek
Her beaten opponent – second seed Belinda Bencic – was bamboozled by what she faced.
"I struggled a lot today with how different she played," she said. "I just couldn't figure out her patterns or her serve or anything at all. It's the unpredictable-ness. I think she plays everything just a little bit different than I'm expecting. So not the usual patterns which you would expect. I think I'm a pretty good anticipator. But today it was a little bit off - of course, thanks to her game."
It’s remarkable to think that before winning the French Open, Swiatek had only reached the final of one previous WTA event – as a 17-year-old in 2019. She was also ranked No 54 in the world in Paris, making her the lowest-ranked woman to win the tournament in the Open era.
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Now she’s very much looking up – and is hoping to figure out how exactly to repeat her impressive title runs at Roland-Garros and Adelaide.
"For sure, there is something that clicks,” she said after her 62-minute win over Bencic. "Not only in my head but also tennis-wise. I feel pretty good on court. I feel like sometimes I have weeks when everything clicks, and that's just the effect of the work we're doing.
"Our goal right now is to have that more often, because I know I can play great tennis. It's just all about planning, aiming for the specific tournament to have the best shape possible."
Along with her triumphs on the court, Swiatek, who works closely with a mental health and psychology coach, is proving a hit off it. She is engaging, fun and interesting, whether it’s making a collection of rubber ducks her first purchase after winning Roland-Garros, building intricate Lego sets during her week in Adelaide or talking about her interest in jazz and using maths skills to determine the “geometry of the tennis court”.
She has been nominated for the prestigious Laureus Award, which celebrates individual and team success from around the sporting world, and has also added Rolex to a growing list of sponsorship endorsements.
She spoke this week about being “fascinated” by Rafael Nadal as a youngster, but Swiatek seems now to be moving into the same echelon as the best players in the world.
And she does not seem overwhelmed by it.
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Asked whether she was worried that her French Open win could be a one-off success, she told Tennis Magazine: "No. I focus on continuing to work hard on myself and staying the way I am. It's clear that I'm not the greatest now just because I won a Grand Slam tournament. I know that some players struggled after such a great triumph… Everything can happen."
Swiatek was scheduled to go to Doha for the Qatar Open, but has withdrawn from that tournament after winning in Adelaide and will instead prepare for the Dubai Tennis Championships next week. Can she win back-to-back tournaments for the first time in her career? Even at 19 it’s difficult to count her out.
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