The 2020 French Open, held at an unusual slot of October due to the disruption in the calendar for the COVID-19 pandemic, is often best remembered for the clay king Rafael Nadal winning his 13th title at the Roland Garros. For Iga Swiatek, the Polish girl who became the youngest woman at 18 to win the title since Monica Seles in 1992, it was of course an unforgettable experience.
As she gears up for this year’s edition which gets underway on Sunday, Swiatek has the form to back her chances for a title-defence but does not want to put any undue pressure on herself. “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.”
The first first Grand Slam singles champion from Poland as well as the first to win the claycourt slam without dropping a set since Justine Henin in 2007, what stood out in the youngster’s game was her audacious shot-making ability - which 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 number one Karolina Pliskova 6-0 6-0 in the final.
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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.”