With Iga Swiatek’s winning streak at the point it is, tennis historians are now searching for comparisons beyond the century in which she is thriving.
Swiatek has now won 37 matches in a row, after defeating Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday.
Her dominant opening-round victory over Jana Fett saw Swiatek attain the longest WTA winning streak this century, eclipsing Venus Williams’ unbeaten run of 35 victories in 2000.
By winning the Roland Garros final, she equalled one Williams sister (Venus) with 35 consecutive wins, and leapfrogged another; the longest streak of Serena’s career was 34 wins, in 2013.
Swiatek’s unbeaten streak is now the best seen in women’s tennis for 25 years, and as a result, she has matched another legend of the sport.
LONGEST WTA WINNING STREAKS
|Martina Navratilova||74||1984 (Nov)|
|Martina Navratilova||54||1984 (Jan)|
In 1997, Martina Hingis went 37-0 through to the final of Roland Garros, which remains the best start to a season for a female player since 1988, the year the Australian Open moved to Melbourne Park.
It was a streak that began with a succession of brilliant performances in Australia.
Hingis’ dominance in 1997 was perhaps unsurprising, given her prodigious talent.
She won the 1993 Roland Garros junior singles title at just 12 years of age, and two years later was already inside the WTA top 20.
She reached the Australian Open 1996 quarterfinals at age 15.
In the second half of 1996 Hingis properly established herself; she cracked the top 10 after reaching the US Open semifinals and the WTA Championships final, with world No.1 Stefanie Graf stopping her at both.
Hingis sparkles Down Under
Hingis therefore entered AO 1997 as the fourth seed, in stellar form after having won the previous week’s Sydney International – the start of her 37-match win streak.
Top seed Graf was again expected to be a roadblock, but she was stunned in the fourth round by Amanda Coetzer. Second and third seeds Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez, both of Spain, were also eliminated early.
It meant that by the quarterfinals, Hingis – only 16 years of age – was the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw.
The “Swiss Miss” seemed unbothered by the brighter spotlight and increasing expectations; instead, she stormed to the title without losing a set.
By dismissing Mary Pierce 6-2 6-2 in the final, Hingis became the youngest Grand Slam singles champion in more than 100 years
And she simply kept winning.
Unbeaten for five months
After leaving Australia, Hingis collected trophies in Tokyo and Paris on indoor carpets in February.
She then returned to hard courts in Miami, scooped the Key Biscayne title – then considered the “fifth major” – and became the youngest world No.1 in WTA history.
“Everybody was expecting me to lose the first match (in Miami). ‘She can't stand the pressure’, whatever. Now with my willpower or whatever, you just want to handle all this stuff,” Hingis said.
“Right now, almost everything is perfect.”
BEST UNBEATEN STARTS TO A WTA SEASON
She carried her momentum onto the green clay courts of Hilton Head, where in April she captured a sixth consecutive title.
Later that month, Hingis, an avid horse rider, fell off a horse and injured her knee to the point it required surgery. This forced her to skip the entire European clay-court swing ahead of Roland Garros.
Despite being underdone she returned strongly, winning through to the final in Paris.
Yet after 37 straight match wins, her streak was finally ended by Croatia's Iva Majoli – back then the lowest seed to win a major title in the Open Era – in what was one of the most shocking Grand Slam final upsets.
1997 - This will be the youngest female final at the Roland Garros since Iva Majoli against Martina Hingis in 1997. Airiness.#SwiatekGauff #RolandGarros #RolandGarros2022 #IgaSwiatek @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/evKohbUaXm— OptaAce (@OptaAce) June 4, 2022
A dominant season
Incredibly, after the Roland Garros final loss, Hingis built another 19-match winning streak, one that incorporated the Wimbledon singles title.
By the time she had arrived in the WTA Los Angeles semifinals in August, her win-loss record was a staggering 56-1.
She went on to collect her third major trophy at the US Open and in November notched an 12th title of the season in Philadelphia.
She completed a magnificent 1997 with a 75-5 record and an iron grip on the world No.1 ranking.
Although that season was the zenith of Hingis' career, she maintained a certain level of dominance beyond that.
She won a third straight Australian Open title in 1999 and then reached the next three finals – a record of six consecutive AO singles finals appearances she shares with Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
She went on to hold the No.1 ranking for a total of 209 weeks, including almost every week in the year 2000 – the same season she dished out 17 6-0 sets to opponents.
This was a mark that Swiatek equalled when she bagelled Fett in the first set of their Wimbledon meeting on Tuesday.
17 - Since 2000, only #SerenaWilliams in 2013 (25) and Kim Clijsters in 2003 (18) have won more sets with a 6-0 scoreline than Iga Swiatek in 2022 (17) in a single season. Welcome back.@WTA @WTA_insider @Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/nyEPYlzQPk— OptaAce (@OptaAce) June 28, 2022