‘Not gonna lie, grass is tricky’ – Iga Swiatek keeps winning despite trepidation at Wimbledon
The Pole is still winning, but doesn’t look as dominant on grass as she did on the clay. That’s a fact she’s more than willing to admit.
The casual fan looks at the updated winning streak – it hit a gaudy 37 on Thursday – and assumes that it has been business as usual for world No 1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon.
In reality, it has been anything but.
Swiatek has picked up a lot of experience on the tour over the last three seasons, and emerged as the most dominant force in the game, but on grass, where she has just played her tenth career match on the surface, she is still very much learning the ropes.
“I would say the grass is pretty tricky for me,” she said after her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove on Thursday. “I’m not going to lie. I mean, I guess you can see that I’m not playing maybe as efficiently as on other surfaces.
“Basically my confidence is getting better overall. But this tournament is tricky and I’m still feeling out how to play the best game here.”
Tricky doesn’t mean impossible
That honest assessment from Swiatek will likely make her opponents fear her less, and that was the case today at SW19. Her opponent played courageous tennis and seemed to believe she could beat the world-beating Pole – something we haven’t seen very often during Swiatek’s run of 37 consecutive victories that now dates back 134 days, to February in Doha.
As of today, Swiatek is tied with Martina Hingis for the longest winning streak on the WTA Tour since Steffi Graf’s 66-match streak in 1989-90
Here are the 10 longest winning streaks in WTA history:
- 74 Martina Navratilova: 1984
- 66 Steffi Graff 1989-90
- 58 Navratilova, 1987
- 57 Margaret Court, 1972
- 55 Chris Evert: 1974
- 54 Navratilova: 1983
- 46 Graf: 1988
- 45 Graf: 1987
- 41 Evert 1975-76
- 41 Navratilova, 1982
World No 138 Kerkhove says she felt it was a big advantage for her to face Swiatek on grass, rather than clay or hard.
“I think it was the best surface to play against her, on grass. I think clay is much different against her,” she said. “So I was happy to play for the first time against her on grass, so I think that was advantage for me.”
It may have been a relative advantage, but it wasn’t enough to make Swiatek flinch. Her best set on Thursday was the third set, when the Pole righted the ship and made sure the match finished on her terms.
If she can continue to play that way under pressure, she’ll have plenty more matches to work on her grass court form.
Swiatek – I still have hope
Swiatek will face France’s Alizé Cornet in the third round, in a match that could be even more challenging than today’s encounter with Kerkhove.
Cornet loves the grass and has history at Wimbledon against top players. In 2014 she defeated top-ranked Serena Williams in the third round – the victory was one of three victories she has earned against a world No 1 in her career.
Rather than focus on Cornet, the Pole just needs to continue to find her comfort zone on grass. It’s not there yet, but over time, she believes it will come.
“On grass I feel like everything changes,” she said. “You have to adjust the movement. I mean, for sure I really like how I move on court, especially when I can slide, when I can recover quickly. Here I can’t really slide. I have to slow down before hitting the ball, so it’s tricky.
“I think I would play well on grass if I would have kind of more time to just play on this surface. I mean, every year it’s only like four weeks, so I feel it’s not enough to learn properly.
“I guess I can see other players who learn how to do that, so I still have hope.”