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January 22, 2023

A hours after Iga Swiatek cemented her dominance with a second French Open title while claiming a 35th consecutive victory in the race that never ends, the exhausted Polish champion, speaking from the corner of a small room, raised his leg on the handle of his chair as he recounted the years leading up to his current success.

“My background from the start was basically what my dad thought was best,” Swiatek said. “He made some really good choices, sometimes really bad choices, but it wasn’t like I had 10 people around me telling us how to handle anything and telling us what to do. We had to choose our own way and for sure we were very lucky that he made good decisions and I had good coaches in the beginning because honestly I didn’t have any system that could help us.

Even though Swiatek showed her early promise as a junior, it took her a long time to believe she could achieve the career she is currently building.

She may have been a perfectionist who always thought she could do better, but the lack of examples from her part of the world made such success much harder to imagine.

“It was quite hard for me to believe that I would be number 1 in the world,” she said. “Because logically, when you take my country, how many people succeeded, it was only Agnieszka [Radwanska] fundamentally. The probability of me becoming a tennis superstar was quite low. I love math and my brain usually thinks about probability, so I thought maybe it wasn’t safe and it would be hard to get there.

This insecurity drove the choices she made, including her decision to stay in school until she finished high school: “I always had a plan B,” she said.

“Even when I was 18, I was still going to high school and I was really focused on it. It felt like I was working two jobs at once. Even in 2020, I still felt like of needing a plan B in case tennis doesn’t work out.

This season started with a complete and extremely consistent world number 1, Australian Ashleigh Barty, playing the best tennis of her career and tearing up the circuit. Since Barty’s retirement, Swiatek hasn’t lost a game.

That they so narrowly missed each other in top form and were unable to build a rivalry has to be the biggest missed opportunity in recent WTA history.

Swiatek says Barty has sent her many supportive texts since retiring and when asked if she wished she could have tested her current game against Barty, she has never been so spirited.

Iga Swiatek of Poland hits a backhand against Coco Gauff of the United States in the women's singles final at Roland Garros.
Iga Swiatek has now won 35 consecutive matches. Photography: TPN/Getty Images

“Me,” she said. “I was thinking about that yesterday. I would like to be in better shape than when I played against her, just to have more variety and more abilities and win against Ash. That would be great.”

The tennis season is moving fast and the grass season begins on Monday, a new frontier for Swiatek to conquer as she tries to extend her streak. Swiatek actually won her only Junior Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2018, but she’s not rated very well on the surface yet. She always felt that conditions were slower that year.

“My coach thinks I can win more matches on grass,” she said. “I don’t know about that yet. But I would like to add one or two. Yeah, but honestly, weed is still tricky. I actually like the part that I have no expectations there. It’s something rather refreshing.

Swiatek is currently on the entry list for the WTA 500 tournament in Berlin, which begins on June 13, but it seems unlikely that she will play. When she turns to the grass, she will prepare on a few grass courts at a private club an hour and a half from Warsaw.

But for now, his priorities are clear. After seeing her idol Rafael Nadal in the Roland-Garros final, she will spend as many days as possible without a tennis racket in her hands. “It will be the most enjoyable thing for me because I have been on tour since the Fed Cup [in April],” she said. “Then I went home for a night. It doesn’t really matter.


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