New Grand Slam winners have become something of a regular occurrence on the women’s tour. Only Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep have won multiple Grand Slams since 2017. In that time we’ve had seven first time winners. The most recent name added to that list is Iga Świątek. Her victory at Roland Garros in 2020 was one of the feel good stories of the year. The young Pole didn’t drop a set on her way to her first Grand Slam title.
In fact, she never lost more than five games in a match across the entire tournament. Her dominance of the rest of the field was simply breathtaking. So, is the young star she destined for more success in the future?
Junior Success an Early Sign of Things to Come
In 2018, Świątek won the Junior Wimbledon title, dropping only a single set the entire tournament. That win came off the back of a semi-final run at the Junior French Open. She also won the Junior French Open doubles that year alongside Catherine McNally. Her highest ranking as a junior was 5th in the world.
It’s certainly true that success as a junior doesn’t always translate well onto the pro circuit. However, the Polish prodigy’s success on the ITF circuit demonstrates how much promise she showed from an early age.
Despite a seven month absence due to injury, Świątek won seven ITF tournaments between 2016 and 2018. She won her first three at just 15 years of age. The signs were there early on that she was a winner who excelled in pressure moments. In fact, Świątek didn’t lose a single ITF final, making seven and winning seven between 2016 and 2018.
Her win at Roland Garros certainly came as a shock to casual tennis fans around the world, but it was clear from her early years that the budding star had the potential to do great things on the women’s tour. In fact, 2019 provided the real glimpse of how good she could be.
First direct main draw entry brings first tour final appearance
Świątek shut down any doubts about whether her success as a junior would translate onto the WTA Tour early on in 2019. She was given her first direct main draw entry at the WTA Lugano Open in Switzerland. She went on to reach the final of the tournament where she played Polona Hercog and lost in three sets.
The result saw her break into the top 100 for the first time at just 17 years of age. Her forehand against Kristýna Plíšková in the semi-final won the 2019 shot of the year, so she didn’t come away from the tournament completely empty-handed. That forehand is a good insight into why so many in the tennis world are fans of the young Polish star.
Świątek plays with a flair in her game that makes her a joy to watch. She regularly peppers her rallies with tweeners, drop shots and lobs in between crisp and powerful ground strokes from both wings. A more than decent serve means that there is very little by way of weaknesses in her game. She showed another flash of her potential later in 2019 at Roland Garros where she made the fourth round before being thumped by former champion Simona Halep.
2019 gave the tennis world a real look at Świątek and she showed us that she was the real deal. The only concern surrounding her game heading into 2020 was whether or not it could translate onto hard courts. Most of her success up until that point came on the clay and so the concerns were valid. However, Świątek wasted little time in putting those concerns to bed in 2020.
2020 brings consistent Grand Slam success, first Major title
In her first appearance since foot surgery following the US Open in 2020, Świątek reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. She beat world #20 Donna Vekić along the way and confirmed that she is more than capable on hard courts.
She then made the third round of the US Open when the tour resumed following its suspension due to COVID-19. consistent Grand Slam performances left the Pole sitting just outside the top 50 heading into the 2020 French Open. What followed was one of the more dominant Slam wins in recent memory.
Świątek beat 2019 runner up Marketa Vondroušová 6-1 6-2 to start off her tournament. She beat former French Open champion Simona Halep 6-1 6-2 in the fourth round. The dominant win avenged her loss by the same scoreline the previous year. In the final, Świątek beat current Australian open champion Sofia Kenin, again doing so in straight sets.
She was simply unplayable and never looked in trouble throughout the entire tournament. The win saw her catapult into the top 20, finishing the year at 17th in the world. The natural question following such an emphatic run to her first Grand Slam is can she do it again?
2021 set to be a big year for Świątek
It certainly seems like she can and quite possibly will. Świątek certainly has the game to win big trophies on a regular basis. Perhaps more importantly though, she understands that the mental fortitude required to do so must also be worked at consistently.
In fact, Świątek had her sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz with her during her run to the French Open title. She has worked with him for over two years as well, showing an understanding from an early age that the biggest hurdles in making it to the top are often mental.
It’s clear then that Świątek is investing all she can in becoming as good a tennis player as she can be. If she continues playing the way she has been over the last 12 months, she could be very good indeed. The Polish star has already shown once that she has what it takes to win the biggest trophies on offer in the sport.
And it would be a Major surprise if that proved to be the last time she goes all the way in a Grand Slam. Whether she repeats her 2020 success is one of the biggest narratives on the WTA Tour heading into another year of tennis. As such, she has more than earned her place in our 2021 WTA Tour players to watch series.