How world No. 1 Iga Swiatek cracked tennis code
RIYADH: Simply over every week in the past, an exhausted Iga Swiatek sat down with a small group of journalists in a quiet nook of the media heart beneath the Philippe Chatrier stadium at Roland Garros to debate her emotions after lifting the second Grand Slam trophy of her younger profession.
The world No. 1 engaged in some idle chat earlier than everybody assembled for the roundtable. She spoke about heading to the close by Bois de Boulogne – a public park near Roland Garros – at the very least 4 or 5 instances in the course of the match fortnight, the place she tried to attach with nature and calm down on her days off.
She expressed an curiosity in attending the subsequent day’s males’s ultimate between her idol Rafael Nadal and Norwegian Casper Ruud and puzzled if it might be a protracted showdown.
Swiatek’s personal French Open ultimate that afternoon, in opposition to American teenager Coco Gauff, had lasted simply 68 minutes.
That triumph on Parisian clay noticed Swiatek lengthen her present profitable streak to 35 matches, the joint-longest unbeaten run in girls’s tennis this century. Solely two tennis gamers have put collectively longer profitable streaks within the 2000s: Novak Djokovic (43) and Roger Federer (41).
The 21-year-old from Poland has received her final six consecutive tournaments – she has not misplaced a match since February – and heads to Wimbledon later this month a category aside from the remainder of the sector.
Swiatek sits atop the ladies’s rankings with a complete of 8,631 factors; her closest rival, world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit is over 4,000 factors adrift.
An enchanting younger thoughts that loves math and chance and travels the tennis tour with a sports activities psychologist that has given her the instruments to achieve a psychological edge over her opponents on court docket, Swiatek gave some perception into how she has been approaching these previous few months, how she dealt with the strain in Paris, and the place her larger ambitions lie.
She looks like she has cracked the code
The best way Swiatek assumed the position of world No. 1 so seamlessly after Ashleigh Barty’s shock retirement in March has been exceptional. Be it from the psychological facet of the game or the technical features of the sport, it appears Swiatek has one way or the other cracked the code of tennis.
When she is in bother on court docket, she finds a solution to resolve the issue and comes out on high. Within the face of immense strain, she rises above it.
From the surface, it appears as if Swiatek presently has the cheat codes for the sport in her again pocket and that she has a solution for no matter comes her approach. Does it really feel that approach for her?
She mentioned: “Sure, I do, and that’s nice, as a result of I’ve by no means felt like that earlier than, and it offers rather a lot by way of simply being assured and never being so scared.
“As a result of I used to be scared rather a lot earlier than matches; I nonetheless do typically however it’s a lot, a lot better to know I can provide you with options and actually resolve issues. It’s completely totally different.”
She just isn’t brief on motivation
Swiatek loved a powerful begin to 2022, making the semi-finals on the Australian Open due to adopting a extra aggressive recreation that has helped her develop into a power on arduous courts, alongside her beloved clay.
When she received Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami back-to-back-to-back, she grew to become the primary participant to ever win the primary three Girls’s Tennis Affiliation 1000-level tournaments of the season. Within the course of, she additionally grew to become No. 1 on the planet.
For some, that may be rather a lot to digest, and it might have been comprehensible had Swiatek taken a while to regulate to her new place on the high. However she didn’t, and as an alternative, she dug deep and stored on profitable, sweeping her subsequent tournaments in Stuttgart, Rome, and Paris.
Was it arduous to remain motivated all through that dominant stretch?
“I solely performed like one smaller match in Stuttgart, and you already know what’s the prize there, so I suppose it wasn’t that arduous to get motivated,” she added, referring to the Porsche she received by advantage of capturing the title within the German metropolis.
“I’m that form of individual that I all the time need to win truthfully and I’m not going to let go and I’m not going to say, ‘oh I’m drained, so let’s settle for that perhaps I’m going to lose,’ as a result of I all the time need to win and I’m going to do the whole lot all the time to win. So, it simply occurred.”
That mentality actually explains rather a lot.
She carved her personal path
Although she received her first Grand Slam on the age of 19, Swiatek didn’t spend her teenagers believing she may really obtain the whole lot she has been attaining over the previous couple of years.
After defeating 18-year-old Gauff in Paris final week, she highlighted how totally different her journey had been in comparison with the younger American and famous how developed Gauff’s profession was in comparison with her personal when she was her age.
On the French Open finalist, who’s at a career-high No. 13 on the planet this week, Swiatek mentioned: “I really feel like she’s doing the whole lot faster than many of the gamers and I’m fairly positive that she’s going to get right here sometime and win a Grand Slam, as a result of I really feel she was raised to try this. I hope she’s going to maintain it going.”
So, was Swiatek raised to try this too?
“I don’t assume so. That’s a tough one. I don’t assume so as a result of my journey from the start is what my dad thought was the very best; and he made actually good decisions and actually unhealthy decisions typically, however it wasn’t like I had 10 folks round me telling us the best way to cope with the whole lot and what to do.
“We had to decide on our personal path and for positive we obtained actually fortunate that he made some good selections and I had good coaches firstly; as a result of truthfully we didn’t have any system that might assist us,” she added.
She by no means thought she would attain the highest
Swiatek’s imaginative and prescient for her personal profession at 18 was to try to earn extra money from the game and to be as skilled as she might be.
She mentioned: “For positive I wished to win some extra money. I used to be fairly disenchanted as a result of I all the time felt I may do higher.
“I used to be raised to truly perhaps be skilled and to all the time have this sort of must get higher, which is usually not useful, as a result of if you’re a perfectionist, it might probably push you down.
“However mainly, it was fairly arduous for me to assume that I’m going to be world No. 1 as a result of simply considering logically, if you take my nation; how many individuals have succeeded (in tennis)? It was solely Agnieszka (Radwanska) mainly. So, the chance of me really turning into a tennis famous person was fairly small.
“I like math and my mind often thinks about chance so I felt that perhaps it was not a positive factor, and it might be arduous to make it occur. I all the time had a plan B, even after I was 18. I nonetheless went to highschool, and I used to be actually targeted on that. I felt like I used to be working two jobs at a time and even in 2020, I nonetheless felt like I wanted a plan B if tennis was not going to work out. I’ve by no means felt like I used to be raised to try this,” she added.
Swiatek ended 2020 as a Grand Slam champion.
She needs Ash had been nonetheless round
When three-time main champion Barty introduced her sudden retirement in March, Swiatek cried for a number of hours, feeling confused and uncertain about what all of it meant.
Three months later, Swiatek has taken her personal recreation to unimaginable heights and admits she needs Barty was nonetheless round so she may face her in her present high type.
“I used to be fascinated by that the opposite day. I’d have beloved to be in a greater form than I used to be after I was enjoying in opposition to her and simply have extra selection and extra skills and to win in opposition to Ash; that may have been nice.”
Her subsequent massive aim?
When Swiatek received her first Roland Garros in 2020, she stood on heart court docket to offer her victory speech and mentioned she hoped she may sooner or later present that there will be consistency on the high of the ladies’s tour.
The depth in area has led to numerous turbulence on the highest degree within the WTA in recent times however Barty managed to carry the No. 1 rating for 121 weeks earlier than retiring, and Swiatek has not misplaced a match for the reason that Australian handed her the baton.
With that aim of bringing consistency to the ladies’s recreation already crossed off her checklist, what was Swiatek’s subsequent massive goal?
She mentioned: “I don’t know, I’m not going to lie, it’s not like I’ve the whole lot deliberate and each aim prepared. I all the time wished to win each Grand Slam, perhaps I’m going to stay to that.
“However I simply need to take the whole lot match by match and we’re going to see. I’ve my objectives off court docket, like attempting to get tennis extra fashionable in Poland and perhaps offering some amenities for youthful gamers. I do know higher what I need to do greater than what comes up on Wikipedia after typing my identify. However for positive profitable all 4 Grand Slams can be good.”
With the regular mindset she has adopted thus far, it’s honest to imagine Swiatek will hit her targets each on the court docket and off it.
Mastering the grass
Though she is a former Wimbledon junior champion, Swiatek admits she has but to unlock her full potential on the floor. She has solely performed the ladies’s occasion on the All England Membership twice, shedding within the first spherical in 2019 and reaching the fourth spherical final 12 months.
Her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski loved nice success together with his former participant Radwanska at Wimbledon (he guided her to the ultimate in 2012, and the semis in 2013, and 2015) and Swiatek believes he may help her work out the grass in due time.
“My solely thought (heading into Wimbledon) is I need to prepare and learn to play on grass higher and that is the one factor I’m going to be specializing in.
“For positive Wimbledon is particular however for me crucial factor is to deliver a great efficiency and I nonetheless haven’t reached the snug feeling on grass, in order that’s going to be my solely aim.
“I don’t need to take into consideration different stuff as a result of this comes first and with good outcomes and good performances, issues are going to return,” she added.