Swiatek seeks consistency after Roland Garros breakthrough

  • Matt Trollope

As the sporting world celebrated yet another talented rising women’s star succeeding on the Grand Slam stage, Iga Swiatek seemed as aware as any of the context surrounding her achievement.

The 19-year-old Polish player overpowered AO champion Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1 in Paris on Saturday to win her first major singles trophy, a result that will vault her inside the world’s top 20. 

By triumphing at Roland Garros, Swiatek became the ninth woman to win her first Grand Slam singles title in the past 14 majors.

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“Maybe it just had to be like that, that another underdog is gonna win another Grand Slam in women’s tennis. It’s so often right now, that it’s crazy,” Swiatek laughed on court after completing her tournament without the loss of a set.

Yet Swiatek does not want to stop here. 

Given six of those previous eight first-time major winners have (so far) not since added to their Grand Slam trophy cabinets, the teenager recognises the ingredient necessary to avoid a similar fate.

“I think the biggest change for me is going to be to be consistent,” Swiatek said.

“I think this is what women's tennis is struggling with. That's why we have so many new Grand Slam winners because we are not, like, as consistent as Rafa, Roger, and Novak. 

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“That's why my goal is going to be to be consistent. It's going to be really hard to achieve that.

“I feel like I can do progress in, like, most of the things because I'm only 19. I know my game isn't developed perfectly.”

This recent era of openness in the women’s game began shortly after Serena Williams – who had just won Australian Open 2017 and had dominated the tour for five years – announced she was pregnant and stepped away from the sport.

Two months later, unheralded world No.47 Jelena Ostapenko ripped through the field to win Roland Garros in 2017, a simply stunning victory that set the tone for what was to come.

Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin and now Swiatek have all since emulated the Latvian, with Osaka even admitting she was inspired by Ostapenko’s exploits. 

Of that group, only Osaka and Halep have gone on to win more majors.

Swiatek’s run was strikingly similar to Ostapenko’s three years earlier at the same tournament. Also unseeded, the world No.54 had also won junior Wimbledon a few years earlier and had never previously been to a Slam quarterfinal either.

Like Ostapenko, Roland Garros marked Swiatek’s first ever tour-level title. 

"I think I'm going to get used to that. I didn't have problem with, like, getting attention, with people surrounding me. I think it's going to be okay for me.”
Iga Swiatek, on the fame that will accompany her Grand Slam breakthrough.

Swiatek, however, seems to have a greater margin for error built into her game, plus a striking level of poise and calm, that could set her apart from many of her contemporaries.

While her weaponry – highlighted by a heavy, powerful forehand – saw her outshine her opponents in the winners column, she also kept her unforced error tally relatively low during her fortnight in Paris. 

Her winners-to-unforced errors ratio was +8 against Kenin in the final (25-17), +10 against top seed Halep in the fourth round (30-20) and an impressive +15 against Eugenie Bouchard in the third round (30-15). 

With promising signs on the technical side of her game, there is also the fact she has prioritised the mental side, given she has employed sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz to travel with her to major tournaments.

This is a move which should stand her in good stead when both her profile and popularity explode – a phenomenon confronting all newly-minted Grand Slam champions. 

“I need to come back home first, see what's going on in Poland. I know it's going to be crazy,” Swiatek said.

“I think I'm going to, like, get used to that, it's not going to be a problem for me. I didn't have problem with, like, getting attention, with people surrounding me. 

“I think it's going to be okay for me.”