Analysis: If number 1 Iga Swiatek continues to improve, watch out |

PARIS (AP) — Iga Swiatek’s first Grand Slam title came at Roland Garros in October 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament from its usual May-June spot on the schedule and limited the number of spectators at Court Philippe Chatrier at 1,000.

Look at the photos of Swiatek kissing this trophy and you’ll see a black mask hidden under his chin.

She was just 19 at the time, ranked outside the top 50, in possession of zero tour-level titles prior to this triumph. And as Swiatek now thinks back to that exact moment, she describes it this way: “Lucky.”

Which is quite different from how Swiatek sees – and should see – what she accomplished on Saturday, not only winning her second major trophy, and second at Roland Garros, with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over American teenager Coco Gauff in the final in front of 15,000 supporters, but carrying the “baggage” of the No. 1 ranking and a winning streak that has now reached 35 matches.

“In 2020, the main thing I felt was confusion, because I (had) never really believed 100% that I could actually win a Grand Slam,” she said. “This time it was pure work.”

Work to improve your game.

Strive to stay focused and shut out the noise.

Work to handle the pressure of being the favorite every time on the pitch.

“I try to build on the strengths and the things that I have (that are) better, maybe,” said Swiatek, who turned 21 on Tuesday.

Then she added with a smile: “I am also aware that my opponents will also be stressed. So I try not to panic and be less stressed than them.

She and her team – which includes coach Tomasz Wiktorowski and sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz – have tried to do their best not to leave everyone’s concern and attention to the unbeaten run that has begun. in February distract and overwhelm Swiatek.

“To be honest, we don’t count these wins. We live day by day. Only the next game is important to us,” Wiktorowski said. “And I know that every tennis coach – and not just tennis coaches – (speaks) like this. But it’s just the best option. It’s the best way, just to take it all step by step, one at a time. … And that kind of amazing stuff can happen.

Incredible, indeed.

Swiatek has won the last six tournaments she has entered. She is 44-3 this season. She has won 56 of her last 58 sets.

“She really didn’t give me anything,” Gauff said. “Every time I thought I had hit a good ball, it wasn’t.”

When asked to describe what Swiatek does so well, Gauff summed it up succinctly: “You don’t have time”, which is quite a tally after a match on red clay, the slowest of sports surfaces.

Now the circuit is moving to smoother grass, with Wimbledon starting on June 27.

Swiatek won the junior title there in 2018. In two appearances in the women’s event, she lost in the first round in 2019 and reached the fourth round a year ago (the All England Club canceled the tournament in 2020 due to of the pandemic).

“My coach thinks I can win more matches on grass. I don’t know about that yet,” she said. “Honestly, grass is always tricky. I actually like the part that I have no expectations there. It’s something rather refreshing.

This was certainly not the case in Paris.

But as Swiatek and his coach said: Stay tuned.

“This is just the beginning of this journey. We have a lot more to do,” Wiktorowski said. “And each tournament brings us new information. We want to keep an eye on (his) strengths, and we will try to develop other tools.

What other tools? There doesn’t seem to be too many gaps in his repertoire, in terms of skill, strategy or mindset.

“There is always something to improve, honestly. I’m still not, like, a complete player,” Swiatek said, mentioning her net ability as an area she can strengthen, before cutting herself.

“Yes, there are a lot of things,” she continued. “I’m not going to tell you, because it may seem like I’m preoccupied with certain things.”

Of course, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about from Swiatek. It is his future adversaries who should be worried.

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Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s principal tennis writer since 2002. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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