Iga Swiatek in 2020: Sudden breakthrough on the biggest stage
- 14 Nov 2020
Unless you are an active follower of professional tennis and specifically the WTA Tour, you might not have heard of Iga Swiatek prior to the 2020 French Open. Now, she is a recognisable name in the sports world. It all changed for the Polish 19-year-old with just one tournament.
Ranking at end of 2019: 60
Ranking at end of 2020: 17
2020 Win/Loss: 14-5
Best performance: Roland-Garros victory
Heading into the French Open (which was postponed from May until late September due to the coronavirus pandemic), Swiatek was ranked No 54 in the world and had never won a WTA Tour title. Needless to say, she was unseeded for the third Grand Slam of the season. From out of nowhere, though, she rolled all the way to the title without dropping a single set with a stunning series of performances. In the final, Swiatek made quick work of 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin to become a Grand Slam champion at the age of 19.
Best Grand Slam event: Where else but Paris?
What do you think? The French Open, duh! That being said, Swiatek actually played well at all three of the slams (Wimbledon was cancelled because of COVID-19). She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open after upsetting Donna Vekic and made it to the US Open third round thanks in part to a defeat of Veronika Kudermetova. Of course, none of that foretold what was to come at Roland-Garros.
High point: Becoming a Grand Slam champion
By a country mile, Swiatek’s triumph at Roland-Garros was the high point of her year — and of her career to date. And the Warsaw native went out on that high note, too, because Roland-Garros was the last tournament she played this season.
Low point: Losing a tough last-16 clash in Melbourne
Although reaching the second week of the Australian Open was a stellar result for Swiatek (especially at that point, eight months prior to the French Open), her fourth-round loss to Anett Kontaveit was brutal. Swiatek took the opening set and twice led by a break in the second. In the third, she erased a 5-1 deficit to get back on level terms at 5-5. Ultimately, however, the wild match went Kontaveit’s way 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5.
In the media
Needless to say, the teenager was thrilled with her Roland-Garros triumph on the second Saturday of the fortnight. However, she may have been equally pleased with what happened one day later on the men’s side at Roland-Garros!
💥🙈It’s hard to describe how special this day is for me. It’s so strange to achieve something that seemed so distant… But yup… It’s here – I’m a grand slam champion (whaaat?). Thank you @SofiaKenin for this final. I wish you all the best.💥🙈 #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/ktIShQZLnj
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 10, 2020
🙈Congratulations @RafaelNadal! It’s amazing to kind of share this experience with you. Am I even allowed to say this?🙈
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 11, 2020
Self-assessment: “My goal is to be consistent”
This is what Swiatek had to say following her win over Kenin in the Roland-Garros final:
“I know my game isn’t developed perfectly. I think the biggest change for me is going to be to be consistent, this is what women’s tennis is struggling with. That’s why we have so many new Grand Slam winners because we are not as consistent as Rafa, Roger and Novak. That’s why my goal is going to be to be consistent. It’s going to be really hard to achieve that….
“I can see the difference when I’m mentally prepared and I’m ready to handle the stress, the pressure; I can see the difference when I can’t. That’s why I’m sometimes losing in first round and sometimes I can win a tournament. My next goal is going to be more consistent and use the skills I have every time because it’s also tiring for your mind.”
Tennis Majors assessment
Swiatek gets an A+ for her Roland-Garros title. Even before that, though, her 2020 campaign was going well — especially for a player who was initially ranked outside the top 50. The other two slams were successful, which surely put her in a confident position going into Paris. As she mentioned, however, consistency will be key from this point forward. Her sample size of success is extremely small (mainly due to such a short season in the wake of COVID-19), so it remains to be seen how she deals with the pressure of expectations moving forward. Swiatek’s next tournament — likely in January of 2021 — will be her first since Roland-Garros.