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Iga Swiatek: The most ruthless player in tennis?

  • Matt Trollope

When she wins matches, Iga Swiatek does so in straight sets more often than any of her top-10 rivals.

The 20-year-old’s ruthless streak was again evident in last week’s WTA 1000 final in Doha, where she overwhelmed Anett Kontaveit 6-2 6-0.

It was her fourth consecutive straight-sets win in Qatar; she also dismantled fellow top-10 players Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari after thumping Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-0 in the last 16.

“It's so nice to have these kind of matches where you don't have actually problems with keeping the pace and with staying aggressive, because right now I'm the more aggressive player, and I really love it, because it's giving me a lot of confidence,” Swiatek said after the final.

“It's just making sometimes life on court easier.”

Winning quickly and efficiently is nothing new for the Polish star.

In 2021 she won 36 matches, and 31 of them – more than 86 per cent – were completed in straight sets.

That percentage has since dropped to 82, given four of her 14 wins in 2022 have required three sets. 

Yet it remains the best ratio of any player in the WTA top 10.

Straight-sets win rate: Season 2021-22
  Straight Three Total wins %
Iga Swiatek 41 9 50 82.00
Garbine Muguruza 38 9 47 80.85
Anett Kontaveit 48 13 61 78.69
Maria Sakkari 39 11 50 78.00
Aryna Sabalenka 38 13 51 74.51
Barbora Krejcikova 39 15 54 72.22
Ash Barty 38 15 53 71.70
Ons Jabeur 36 18 54 66.67
Karolina Pliskova 24 13 37 64.86
Paula Badosa 33 19 52 63.46

(WTA top 10 as of 28 Feb 2022)

It is also the best percentage of all top 20 players except for Emma Raducanu.

Yet unlike Swiatek, Raducanu did not commence her 2021 season until June and scored several of her wins in that same span at ITF and WTA 125K events.

Among top players who played complete seasons at tour level, Swiatek’s straight-sets record is unmatched.

“For sure there is something that clicks. Not only in my head but also, like, physically, tennis-wise,” Swiatek reflected after winning last year’s Adelaide international without dropping a set.

“I'm really happy I have weeks like that and I can win tournaments.”

Many observers began to get a sense of Swiatek’s killer instinct when she competed at Roland Garros in September and October 2020.

It was jaw-dropping to watch her crush Simona Halep in the fourth round; Halep was arguably the best clay-court player in the world at the time but was rendered utterly helpless in the 67-minute rout.

Swiatek’s 6-1 6-2 win was one of seven dominant straight-sets victories she produced in Paris to win her first major title.

No player pushed her closer than 6-4 in any set that fortnight and she dropped only 28 games across seven matches, the fewest en route to a Roland Garros title since Steffi Graf in 1988.

When you include that French Open run, it means Swiatek has completed 48 of her most recent 57 wins in straight sets.

Those following Swiatek’s progress even more closely would have known such dominance was not a new phenomenon.

In 2018, the same year she thumped Raducanu 6-0 6-1 along the way to winning the Wimbledon junior title, she also made an impact on the ITF pro tour.

She won 43 of her 49 matches on that circuit, and a similar pattern was evident; 36 of those 43 wins – almost 84 per cent – came in straight sets.

Even more notably, 27 of those 43 victories featured sets she won either 6-0 or 6-1.

It was also in 2018 when her dominance in finals became apparent.

She won four ITF titles and dropped just a handful of games in any of those four finals – a pattern that has persisted as she has developed into a top player on the WTA Tour. 

Swiatek has won 11 of her 12 career finals, 10 of them in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek: Career finals
Year Tournament Level W/L Opponent Score
2016 Stockholm ITF 10K Won L. Paar 64 63
2017 Bergamo ITF 15K Won M. Di Giuseppe 64 36 63
2017 Gyor ITF 15K Won G. Horackova 62 62
2018 Sharm El Sheikh ITF 15K Won B. Geukens 63 61
2018 Pelham ITF 25K Won A. Kiick 62 60
2018 Budapest ITF 60K Won K. Zavatska 62 62
2018 Montreux ITF 60K Won K. Zimmermann 62 62
2019 Lugano WTA 250 Lost P. Hercog 63 36 63
2020 Roland Garros Grand Slam Won S. Kenin 64 61
2021 Adelaide WTA 500 Won B. Bencic 62 62
2021 Rome WTA 1000 Won K. Pliskova 60 60
2022 Doha WTA 1000 Won A. Kontaveit 62 60


Nowhere was she more dominant than against Karolina Pliskova in the 2021 Rome final, in which Swiatek shockingly took apart the former world No.1 6-0 6-0. 

“From the beginning I felt that she may be a little bit nervous, and I wanted to use that and actually play as many games with that vibe as I can. That's why it was pretty fast at the beginning,” Swiatek noted after that final.

“The key (to winning in that manner) is just to not to think about it and just play. Because when you're gonna think about the score, you can actually like ruin your mindset and ruin your attitude.”

Scarily, she was almost as dominant against Kontaveit in Doha, winning the last 10 games in a row from 2-2 in the first set.

Swiatek in the most recent off-season began working with new coach Tomasz Witkorowski, who has helped convince her to adopt a more aggressive mindset in matches. 

Given Swiatek had already demonstrated she could be so dominant, this newfound commitment to even greater attack must come as a dreaded prospect for her rivals.

“This week has shown me that when I'm playing fearless it's giving me points… it has to do with my attitude, with my mentality. Just coming into the match with thoughts that, hey, I want to be a leader right now, and I want to be in control of that match,” Swiatek explained in Doha.

“So I'm pretty happy that this week I was the one to be on top of the game.”