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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday December 2, 2020


As the 2020 tennis season winds down Tennis Now is looking back on the movers, shakers and achievers. We continue our series with a look at Iga Swiatek’s sensational ride to Grand Slam glory in 2020.

More 2020 Season in Review: Victoria Azarenka | Ugo Humbert


Tennis Express

What Made Swiatek’s Season Special?

Two words: Roland Garros. Swiatek came of age in Paris in October, going on a run for the ages that took her to her first major title. The 19-year-old Pole became the first player to ever claim Grand Slam singles glory from Poland and did so in her seventh career Grand Slam appearance.

What Was Her Greatest Achievement in 2020?

Everything about her run at Roland Garros. And especially the fact that it came after a difficult stretch on hard courts in the United States, and a lot of soul-searching with her team. Swiatek told reporters early during the Roland Garros fortnight that she had played with high expectations in the US because she felt that with so many top players missing due to the coronavirus pandemic, she could truly have a shot at making a run at the US Open.

After falling to Victoria Azarenka at the US Open in straight sets in the third round, Swiatek and her team went about the business of retooling her expectations for the clay season.

“I really needed a lot of time, but that was the first time I had such high expectations in my career, so it wasn't easy,” she said after her first-round win at Roland Garros, long before she had ripped through the draw to become the youngest women’s singles champion in Paris in 28 years. “And I feel like next time it's going to be better because right now I have more experience and maybe from the beginning I'm not going to put a lot of expectations on myself."


We can talk all we want about the nuts and bolts of Swiatek’s game, and we will, for years to come. But the groundwork of her success was laid with the realizations she was able to make after a disappointing showing in New York. That’s what bona fide champions do. They don’t rely on their extraordinary talents on the court, they search for more inside themselves.

What makes Swiatek’s ability to deal with, manage, and overcome pressure all the more remarkable is the fact that she’s STILL. JUST. 19.

"It's OK for me not to play perfectly," Swiatek said in that same virtual press conference after her first-round beatdown of Marketa Vondrousova. "I just wanted to play my best tennis and feel good on court, because I had sometimes a hard time in past tournaments."

Perfection wasn’t the goal, but it was what Swiatek very nearly achieved in Paris. She dropped a mere 28 games through seven rounds and never more than four in a single set.

What Else Stood out about Swiatek in 2020?

The forehand. Swiatek’s forehand can be a true nightmare for her opponents because she puts wicked topspin on it. In the Roland Garros final you could feel how firmly on the back foot Sofia Kenin was when she tried to handle it. According to her coach Piotr Sierzputowski, it was the shot she needed to work on the most during quarantine.

“First of all we are going to work a little bit on her forehand,” he told Tennis Now in a phone interview in April. “Iga has a huge forehand but it’s like really mind-dependent, like if she believes in it or not, so we have to do a lot of repetition and a lot of technical, small stuff, which will give her confidence.”

Seems like they’ve got it on track…

What Is Swiatek’s Year-End Ranking?

Swiatek finishes the year at 17 in the world. It will be interesting to see how long it takes her to move into the Top 10. Consistency will be the key to her rise up the rankings.




What’s Next for Swiatek?

Can we expect more brilliance from Swiatek in 2021? It’s hard to imagine anything other than that, but the WTA tour is littered with talent and she’ll be a player with a target on her back for the rest of her career. Everybody brings a little something extra when they face a former Grand Slam champion and so Swiatek will have to keep finding that mind-body balance and ignore the lofty expectations that are now set for her.

No matter what happens Swiatek will always own the honor of being Poland’s first Grand Slam champion, but one thinks that she’ll not be settling for being a one-Slam wonder.

 

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