Iga Swiatek Wins her First Match Since Wimbledon

Iga Swiatek WTA Warsaw
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Iga Swiatek hadn’t competed professionally since Wimbledon, only participating in a charity exhibition for Ukrainian children impacted by the war, losing a one-set match to Agnieszka Radwanska. Her next start was the 2022 BNP Paribas Poland Open in Warsaw, where her father is one of the organizers. On Wednesday, she defeated Magdalena Frech 6-1 6-2 in an all-Polish round one matchup. “Above all, I’m very happy I played such a solid match. First rounds aren’t easy, no matter the tournament. Here there was also the factor of full stands, supporters who were very excited. The crowd in Poland is always very demanding” said the Pole at her press conference.

The stands at Legia Tenis & Golf can host about 4000 people and the tickets were all sold out, with only a few seats remaining free during Swiatek’s match. “I’m very pleased. To be honest I’ve never done this before, changing surfaces two days before the tournament. I’m happy to have done this very smoothly, but the next matches will show whether I can keep it up. When it comes to playing on the Center Court, it’s a huge pleasure. I’m happy so many people came, so many people are interested in tennis. I think it’s changed a lot over the past few years in Poland. My secondary goal [for this event] is to promote tennis in Poland.”

Tactically, Frech tried to bring in the variety and not let Swiatek find her range too quickly. While she failed to do that in the opening set, where the World No. 1 was just firing her forehand and completely dominating the proceedings, she was a bit more successful with that as the match went on, winning some backhand to backhand rallies and forcing Swiatek to play some unusual shots. It wasn’t enough though as the two-time Roland Garros champion swiftly raised her game. “I was ready for her slices and dropshots. They’re pretty unique, so I’m not surprised she uses them a lot on grass and builds her advantage this way. Here, I can hit through them with topspin and constantly put pressure on her, despite her resetting the rallies.”

Did losing the streak take some pressure off?

At Wimbledon, Swiatek lost her 37-match win streak to Alize Cornet in the third round. “In Paris I was focused enough on the game, I knew what my strengths were, I wasn’t thinking about the streak. I thought about it only after the tournament, I was doing well at concentrating only on my next match, next challenge. (…) At Wimbledon, it was a bit different, because I felt that in the key moments I can’t rely only on my tennis abilities. I wasn’t feeling so sure about what I was playing, I didn’t fully find myself tactically. So at Wimbledon, the streak didn’t matter, it was about the tennis. Here, I’d say it’s a bit easier to play without the streak, but there are other distractors, like playing at home, which I wasn’t great at in the past.”

Indeed, Swiatek played in Warsaw (as a pro) twice before, both times losing in the opening round of ITF events. She performed very well at a Billie Jean King Cup tie in Radom earlier this year, dropping one game combined against Mihaela Buzarnescu and Andrea Prisacariu, so perhaps the “curse” has already been lifted. The 21-year-old is the overwhelming title favorite in Warsaw, mostly for two reasons. One is that the second highest-ranked player in the field is Caroline Garcia, currently holding the 45th spot in the WTA Rankings. Swiatek is also undefeated on clay this year, winning Stuttgart, Rome, and Roland Garros. The Pole will now play lucky loser Gabriela Lee in the second round.

Main Photo credit: Michał Jędrzejewski / BNP PARIBAS Poland Open