Paris, October 11
Newly-crowned French Open champion Iga Swiatek is not your standard academy-honed tennis prodigy nor, for the matter, is she your typical teenager.
For a start she eschews the latest pop music trends and lists Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Santana as her favourite bands. She also enjoys historical novels and meditating before bed.
Put her on a tennis court and the 19-year-old brings a cerebral and inventive style that is a refreshing change to the often pre-programmed games of some of her peers.
What is more, it is devastatingly effective as she demonstrated again on Saturday while beating American Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1 to become Poland’s first Grand Slam singles champion.
Swiatek, the youngest French Open women’s winner since Monica Seles in 1992, dropped only 28 games in seven matches here, including a first-round win over 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova and a last-16 trouncing of top seed Simona Halep.
She warmed up for the final on Friday not by practising and relaxing, but by contesting a doubles semi-final, after which she said she would approach the singles final not caring too much whether she won or lost. If that was meant to allow her to play with the freedom to showcase her style it worked a treat.
She struck 25 winners in an ultimately one-sided match, many of which seemed to take Kenin completely off guard.
Swiatek has a big spinny forehand but can also flatten it for extra zip and her use of angles and ability to spot an opening are a gift that coaches would love to bottle.
Trailing 1-0 in the second set on Saturday she broke back with a whipped backhand, delivered down the line from out wide — just one example of her ability to improvise and manipulate the tennis ball. There were also several drop shots that veered off at 90 degrees after bouncing.
Asked what she does differently to other players, Swiatek said she would have to play against herself to know, but added: “Really, I mean, I just have my instincts. I think this is helping me a lot.” Despite her amazing breakthrough that will launch her into the world’s top 20, Swiatek said she cannot even consider herself the best player Poland has produced, pointing to now-retired former Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska.
She also said her next target was to reach a level of consistency that has proved troublesome for some of the other women players after claiming maiden Grand Slam titles. “I think this is what women’s tennis is struggling with,” she said. “That’s why we have so many new Grand Slam winners because we are not as consistent as like Rafa (Nadal), Roger (Federer), and Novak (Djokovic). That’s why my goal is going to be to be consistent. It’s going to be really hard to achieve that.” — Reuters