When Iga Świątek won her second French Open this month, she also won her 35th match in a row, tying Venus Williams’ streak in 2000. This week, Świątek will try to maintain her streak at Wimbledon, where she is the number one seed.
Świątek is enjoying one of the best runs in WTA history. Earlier this year, she became the youngest player to win Indian Wells and Miami in the same season.
But how does Świątek’s sublime streak compare to the streaks of other greats in the sport, such as Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf?
Somehow, Świątek hasn’t even come close to matching the best. For example, in 1984, Navratilova won 74 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak in women’s tennis in the Open era.
But in other respects, Świątek has been as dominant as the icons he pursues. She’s already broken Serena Williams’ 34-match winning streak in 2013, and Świątek’s recent dominance rivals any in the history of the sport.
“Having that 35th win and doing something other than what Serena did, it’s something special. Because she always wanted… to have some kind of record. In tennis, it’s quite difficult after Serena’s career,” Świątek said. “The hardest thing is not allowing yourself to think about it and overanalyze.”
In some of his matches, he has had little time to think because they were over so quickly. Świątek has won 15 sets 6-0 since he started his winning streak in Doha, Qatar, in February. Compared to the first 35 matches of the two best winning streaks in women’s tennis in the Open era, Świątek’s 6-0 set tally is superior.
Graf won 66 consecutive matches in a streak that spanned 1989-90 and compiled 13 sets 6-0 in the first 35 matches of his streak. In the first 35 wins of her longest streak, Navratilova won seven sets 6-0.
In other respects, however, both Navratilova and Graf outclassed Świątek. Navratilova and Graf won nearly 96 per cent of their sets in the first 35 matches of their streaks. In his streak, Świątek has won 92 percent of his sets.
Of the three streaks, Świątek has the second highest win percentage. He has won 71 percent of the 638 games he has played, compared to Navratilova, who won just under 71 percent of 617 games. Graf leads the trio, having won nearly 77 percent of 571 games through the first 35 games of his streak.
Pam Shriver, a 1978 US Open singles finalist and 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, is not surprised that Świątek’s stats are among the best of all time. She thought long and hard as she watched Świątek drop just one set en route to her second Grand Slam title earlier this month.
“It definitely reminded me of mastering the best winning streaks in women’s tennis history,” Shriver told me. “It has been really impressive. It’s not like I’m lucky.
Shriver knows greatness and winning streaks all too well. In singles, he played 43 times against Navratilova and 12 against Graf. In doubles, 20 of Shriver’s 22 major titles were won with Navratilova. And during Navratilova’s 74-match winning streak, Shriver lost to her twice, including a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 loss just before the 1984 US Open.
Shriver sees similarities between the three champions’ games. All three move superbly and quickly put their opponent on defense, Shriver said. Świątek uses his forehand, as does Graf, while Navratilova relied on his suffocating serving style and his volley.
The trio also has a strong sense of faith, Shriver said. Świątek travels with a psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.
What surprises Shriver is how Świątek played prior to his winning streak. In their previous 35 matches, Świątek ran 22-13, while Navratilova and Graf dominated. Navratilova went 34-1; Graff, 33-2.
“Something clicked her into a new gear,” Shriver said. “[T]the hose numbers are interesting and make you wonder…if Iga [is] just having one of those incredible streaks and he’ll settle back into the 22-13 type of game or if his elevated level will endure over time like Martina and Steffi did.”
The most important stat of any winning streak, of course, is your final number. How long can a player withstand the mounting pressure and constant chatter that comes with a long streak?
At Wimbledon, Świątek can add seven more wins to his total. He has never made it past the fourth round in the main grass-court championship. Still, she is by far the betting favorite to take her streak to 42 matches and celebrate her third Grand Slam title. After that, to catch Navratilova, Świątek will only have 32 games to play.