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Iga Swiatek keeps the streak going and secures another French Open title

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Never has a power vacuum been filled so convincingly in tennis. When Ash Barty retired at her peak in March, he also vacated the No. 1 spot in the women’s game. It went to the next name on the ladder, Iga Swiatek, a Nadal acolyte from Poland with some very severe effects of her own and a growing clay-court resume. Swiatek became No. 1 in early April, when she was already in a warm-up, and as if to quell any whispers that she got lucky at No. 1, she has since refused to lose a tennis match. By defeating an outmatched Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 in the French Open final on Saturday, Swiatek extended her streak to 35 wins.

Swiatek is the eighth woman in the Open Era to achieve a streak of this length; it’s the longest since Venus Williams hit 35 in 2000, and it’s longer than Serena’s 34 in 2013. During that streak, Swiatek turned 21; she won 70 of 76 sets played; she claimed six titles on both hard court (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami) and clay (Stuttgart, Rome, Roland Garros); and she transformed from a promising young talent to the unquestioned alpha of the WTA. That’s three productive months at the office.

“I felt like twice winning a Grand Slam, you are really confirming that you are capable of doing that. So I was chasing that a little bit,” Swiatek said, of following up on his 2020 French Open title. “Now, I don’t know what I’m going to chase. I’m probably going to go get some nice snacks today, that’s all. He stayed in Paris to watch Rafa win his 14th on Sunday, and then it was time to rest, a luxury rarely allowed to the best living tennis players.

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A streak requires mastery of both different conditions and different matchups, and Swiatek can thank the maturing of his game this season. He has overcome his natural tendencies, a high-margin, loopy defensive style, to get on the baseline and attack his opponents.

“Right now I have moments where I can feel like I have nothing to lose and I’m going all-in,” Swiatek said in Doha, the tournament where his streak began. “Actually, before I really didn’t want to take that risk, because I didn’t want to be that type of player that is just going to throw the balls and we’re going to see if he’s going to go in or go out. . He always wanted to be solid and the type of player on clay that is going to play topspin and fall behind.”

Working with new trainer Tomasz Wiktorowski has “relaxed” his hitting. Swiatek kept that old solidity in her footwork and balance (it’s hard to find a single shot at a given spot when she’s not firmly rooted to the court, knees bent, drawing power from her legs) and added some more power from her legs. fire and risk tolerance. She is already a dominant returner and defender, her big topspin forehand is unequivocally her best shot on the WTA right now. (Ignore the thumbnail sweat for this YouTube video; highlights are complete.)

If there’s a downside, it’s that Swiatek has gotten too good to sustain real rivalries. That goes for top 10 neighbors like Maria Sakkari or Aryna Sabalenka; newcomers like Gauff or Emma Raducanu; or decorated veterinarians like Simona Halep or Victoria Azarenka. When Naomi Osaka recovered from an absence to reach the final of the Miami Open, she expected an incredible final. After a competitive first set, Swiatek closed out the festivities with a quick 6-0. She has yet to make a consistent impact on grass so far in her career and, by her own admission, would only like one or two wins on the “tricky” surface, so her colleagues could be Free for the next few weeks. However, her talent like hers tends to find a way to translate across surfaces. A young Nadal once went from being knocked out in the second round of Wimbledon to three straight finals, but one superfan already knows that.

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