Roland Garros defence next up for rapidly-rising Swiatek

Less than eight months after her breakthrough French Open victory, Poland's Iga Swiatek is ready to defend her title.

Iga Swiatek with her Italian Open trophy on May 16, 2021. - REUTERS

Iga Swiatek has proved she has added consistency to her game since her breakthrough French Open victory last year and after adding the Rome title to her tally this month, the Pole would be assured that a Roland Garros defence was a real possibility.

Swiatek went from being a largely unknown teenager to acquiring celebrity status when she won the French Open in October. In doing so she became Poland’s first Grand Slam singles champion and the youngest woman to win the title since Monica Seles in 1992 and the first to do so without dropping a set since Justine Henin in 2007.

Less than eight months later the next edition of the claycourt major kicks off on Sunday, a day before Swiatek celebrates leaving her teenage years behind her.

“When you win a Grand Slam everybody will always remember that you won a Grand Slam,” she told BBC this week. “I don’t think of it like I have to defend the trophy and win the French Open because what I did is always going to be with me.”

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The Pole’s audacious shot-making ability makes her pretty much unstoppable when in full flow. Glimpses of a similar, punishing Swiatek was on display in Rome when she humiliated former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the final.

The result backed up to her expectations of being a “perfectionist” but having full-time psychologist Daria Abramowicz in her team has also taught Swiatek how to deal with the highs and lows of being a professional player. “I have trouble myself to accept many things,” she told the WTA.

“But for sure, working with a psychologist and having that kind of support in every tournament helped me a lot because people tend to lose the proper perspective. I’m looking at things through my emotions a lot of times. So it's good to have someone that’s going to keep you on Earth and someone you trust that can always tell the truth.”

Learning how to deal with the business aspects of the sport and keeping up with media obligations since becoming a Grand Slam winner has not been easy but Swiatek has not allowed that to have much impact on her game. From a ranking of 54th at the start of the 2020 French Open, Swiatek has steadily climbed to a career-best ranking of ninth, picking up a WTA 500 title in Adelaide and a WTA 1000 win in Rome on the way up.

“It is pretty crazy and I’m really proud of myself that I’m actually starting to be more consistent, because that was my goal from the beginning,” Swiatek said.

“Actually, I feel right now that I am doing huge progress in that matter.”

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