During a two-week business trip to Paris, Iga Swiątek (pronounced EE-gah Shfee-on-tec), ran roughshod over her competition at the French Open, while becoming the first Polish pro to capture one of tennis’ four major tennis titles. Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open are the other three.
With an unexpected display of clay court savvy and without losing more than five games to any of her seven opponents, Swiatek claimed the prestigious title, defeating reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 Saturday in the final. No. 54 Swiatek lost only 23 games in seven matches. She beat Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open finalist 6-1, 6-2 in the first round and top seed Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round.
“I don’t know what’s going on, I’m so happy, it’s crazy,” the 19-year-old Poland native said after the match. “Two years ago, I won junior Wimbledon and now I’m here. It feels like such a short time, so I’m just overwhelmed. Thank you all for cheering. It was an amazing final.”
After the match, NBC’s analyst John McEnroe said, “She’s got all the goods and I think she can win several more major titles, but I’d like to see how she plays on the hard surfaces.”
Naomi Osaka developed a friendship with Swiatek after defeating her 7-6 (4), 6-4 last year at the Rogers Cup, at a hardcourt event, in Toronto. Responding to Swiatek’s fourth round victory over Halep on Twitter, Osaka said simply, “What a star.”
Swiatek kept opponents on their heels with blistering baseline groundstrokes, mixed judiciously with well-disguised winning drops shots, also from the baseline. Since most of the top-ranked women are strictly baseline bangers, Swiatek’s feathery drop shots should prove to be as troublesome on grass and hardcourts, if she plays with the same focus and determination that she showed at the French Open.
“Clay is my favorite surface, for sure, I was raised on clay,” she said. “I play well on hardcourts too.” Swiatek won all seven of the ITF women’s events (5 clay and 2 hardcourt) she entered and reached the 2020 Australian Open quarterfinals on the WTA Tour “I was playing so well before the Covid-19 outbreak,” she said. “I didn’t want to think about reaching the quarterfinals or semifinals. I came to the French just focusing on hitting the ball.”
Swiatek became one of five rising stars who have won seven of the last eight major titles. The others are Kenin, Osaka (3), Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu, all under 23. Their emergence signals the changing of the guard at the top level of women’s tennis.