May 24, 2022 - Sports

All eyes on rising tennis star Iga Świątek

Iga Świątek

Photo: TPN/Getty Images

You probably can't pronounce Iga Świątek, but you should get to know her name.

Driving the news: Świątek — pronounced shvi-ahn-tek in Polish and svi-ah-tik in English — cruised to a first-round win Monday at the French Open for her 29th straight victory.

  • That's the fourth-longest WTA streak this century, trailing only Venus Williams in 2000 (35), Serena Williams in 2013 (34) and Justine Henin in 2007-08 (32).
  • Wild stat: The 20-year-old has won 44 of her last 45 sets, 25 of which were either 6-0 or 6-1.

The backdrop: Świątek’s journey began in Warsaw, Poland, where her father Tomasz, a 1988 Olympic rower, pushed her towards competitive sports and ushered her through a successful youth tennis career.

  • She burst onto the scene in 2020 by winning the French Open, becoming the youngest women's major singles champion since 2004 and the first Polish major singles champion ever (man or woman).
  • She won twice more in 2021 but has taken her game to new heights this year, becoming the first Pole ever to reach No. 1 after then-No. 1 Ash Barty's surprise retirement in March.

Between the lines: Świątek modeled her game after her idol, Rafael Nadal, so her success at Roland Garros is no coincidence. But she's recently added a new element that helps her dominate on all surfaces.

  • Rather than rely on her Nadal-esque topspin forehand, she's attacking earlier and is lethal against serves, winning more than half of her return games this season — by far the most among the top 10.
  • Świątek also attributes much of her success to her sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, who joins her at every tournament and helps her stay focused mentally.

What they're saying: "A lot of respect for Iga," Marta Kostyuk told the New Yorker. "The way she plays, thinks, talks ... I think it's great when someone like this is ruling."

Looking ahead: With numerous top players exiting early at Roland Garros, Świątek is the overwhelming favorite to win her second major.

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