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Swiatek back on track, into US Open’s second week

  • Matt Trollope

Almost three months had passed since Iga Swiatek won three matches in a row.

It is a slightly absurd statistic, given the world No.1’s dominance in the first half of season 2022.

During that period she won six straight tournaments and notched 37 consecutive match wins, this century’s longest winning streak on the women’s tour.

But since hoisting her second Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros, wins have come less frequently or easily for the Polish star.

She arrived in New York with a tepid 4-4 record in her past eight matches, struggling in a variety of conditions post-Paris.

But on the Grand Slam stage, something has once again clicked.

Swiatek was mostly in control throughout Saturday night’s 6-3 6-4 win over 105th-ranked Lauren Davis, locking in from 1-4 down in the second set to progress. 

It is the first time since that French Open title run in early June that she has earned three consecutive victories.

"I knew like it's not the end of the world that I'm losing in third round. I tried just to remind myself that it's kind of normal, that it's impossible to play always on the same level," she explained.

"Here I just took it match by match. I wasn't expecting maybe too much because of the losses, so that's good.

"It's not like I lost confidence or something. I still know anything can happen on these tournaments."

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There are glimpses of a return to that early-season form; a growing succession of wins, six consecutive sets won, and a bagel for good measure.

That came in the first round against Jasmine Paolini – her 18th 6-0 set scoreline of the year.

Her achievements have flown slightly under the radar this week as Serena Williams’ compelling progress proved the story of the tournament.

But with Williams now eliminated, along with every other former US Open champion in the field, the focus will inevitably shift toward the world No.1 as she seeks to continue her progress at Flushing Meadows.  

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Swiatek, now 53-7 in 2022, has advanced to the second week at nine of her last 11 Grand Slam tournaments.

But Davis made her work for this triumph.

The American is famous for pushing another world No.1 to the brink; that was Simona Halep, also in the third round, at Australian Open 2018.

That day Halep was forced to save multiple match points before eventually subduing the gallant Davis 15-13 in the third set, after almost four hours on court. 

Parallels were forming as Davis battled Swiatek; the first set alone lasted one hour and when she surged 4-1 ahead in the second, this match, too, seemed destined to spill over into a decider.

To this point Swiatek had sprayed 35 unforced errors as she battled to control her forehand in the cool, breezy conditions – a persistent problem since her historic streak was snapped.

But in the 10-15 minutes that followed, the world No.1 almost completely eliminated these errors, played with increased urgency and clarity, and took over the match.

She claimed 20 of the final 25 points to advance to a fourth-round meeting with Jule Niemeier, the recent Wimbledon quarterflnalist from Germany.

A fourth straight win would send her into a first ever US Open quarterfinal. But it would undoubtedly also bring plenty of satisfaction for Swiatek, given how much she enjoyed that winning feeling earlier in 2022.

SWIATEK: "Doing something more than Serena did is something special"

"During all these tournaments, there were many players who congratulated me. I felt like it was really appreciated that I'm so consistent that I'm doing so much work," Swiatek revealed.

"I'm sure that some of them are jealous a little bit (smiling). We all working to win basically, even though we should focus on the process and stuff. It's normal to want to win.

"I would envy, as well. I'm happy that I was the one that was winning for a while."