Iga Swiatek’s sensational winning streak has now seen her draw level with a Roland Garros great and close in on two icons of the sport.
Swiatek defeated rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen 6-7(5) 6-0 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinal stage in Paris for the third year running.
Her streak of 20 consecutive sets won may have ended, but she now won 32 matches in a row.
It is the same number achieved by former world No.1 Justine Henin, a four-time Roland Garros champion who went undefeated in the back half of 2007 before Maria Sharapova ended her streak in the Australian Open 2008 quarterfinals.
Now, Swiatek is nearing Serena and Venus Williams, who own the longest winning streaks this century.
Swiatek could equal Venus’s magical run of 35 match wins – a streak that included the 2000 Wimbledon and US Open titles, plus Olympic gold in Sydney – should she triumph at Roland Garros.
Longest WTA winning streaks
|Martina Navratilova||74||1984 (Nov)|
|Martina Navratilova||54||1984 (Jan)|
|Chris Evert||41||1976 (Jan)|
|Chris Evert||36||1976 (Nov)|
Swiatek is already a French champion, and for the second straight year is the only WTA top 10 player to progress to the last eight in Paris.
Twelve months ago she was ranked ninth, however, this time she is the game’s dominant No.1 whose last loss came more than three months ago, to Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai.
The Pole is now within three wins of a sixth straight title, and second Grand Slam trophy.
No.11 seed Jessica Pegula awaits in the quarters.
Q. I'll ask you to put your pundit hat on, but you and Iga are the two top seeds left going into the second week.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 28, 2022
JESSICA PEGULA: That's so funny. I wish we were on opposite sides of the draw.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/u1TL2pljHX
“I feel more pressure, so that is not enjoyable. But I have been doing well with that, I think,” said Swiatek, who turns 21 on Tuesday.
“I'm taking a lot of confidence in my comeback in second set (against Zheng). So I think it's important that I had this kind of match which is kind of like a cold shower, and it reminded me how to find these solutions after losing a first set.
“I feel when I'm gonna take some positives from it, I think it's going to give me a lot before next matches.”
Swiatek has mostly steamrolled opponents of late; she dropped only 21 games to win the Rome title, the fewest games dropped in any title run on the women’s tour in 2022.
That trend seemed set to continue when she moved to a 5-2 lead over Zheng.
But although she earned five set points across the ensuing games, and led 5-2 in the tiebreak, Swiatek could not stop her 19-year-old opponent from snatching the opener.
It indeed proved the “cold shower” she needed; Swiatek responded by winning eight games in a row.
“I'm pretty happy that I could play a little bit faster and put pressure on her,” said Swiatek, who has now won 16 sets by a scoreline of 6-0 in 2022.
“I feel actually a little bit better because I felt like I was a little bit in trouble, and I was able to come back and really refocus and find other solutions, so that's great. And kind of I didn't have a chance to do that in previous matches, because I was leading in the first rounds and then I finished it right.
“We still have chances in second and third, so I try to really focus on that. It's really great for me that physically and mentally I'm ready to win those second sets.
Swiatek has some way to go before matching the legendary Stefanie Graf’s mark of 39 6-0 sets back in 1989.
Iga Swiatek has now won 15 6-0 sets in 2022.— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 26, 2022
Matches Steffi Graf's haul in 1986!
Via Matt, here's the 9 straight years when Graf recorded double-digit numbers of bagel sets:
On a recent episode of The Tennis Podcast, journalist Simon Briggs recounted a conversation he had with Swiatek’s former coach Nick Brown, who watched her practise with Paula Badosa a day before Roland Garros.
“It was so intense; he said he'd not seen anybody practise at that level of attack since Graf 30 years ago. And he thought that was a very good sign for Swiatek,” Briggs revealed.
Notably, Graf’s streaks of 45 wins (1987) and 46 wins (1988) both incorporated titles at Roland Garros.
Later this week, we will know if the same can be said for Swiatek’s own unbeaten run.