French Open 2024: From stress to serenity - how Iga Swiatek won 'surreal' fifth major

Iga Swiatek

It seemed like the end was near for Iga Swiatek during her match against Naomi Osaka in the French Open's second round when she reached the point of being one point away from losing.

The top-ranked player in the world had a visible expression of stress on their face during the intense final set of the match.

As she struggled to identify the issue, drops of perspiration streamed down her creased forehead.

By preventing a loss through a diagonal shot that went over the court and Osaka could not return properly, Swiatek started a chain of events that led to her winning her third consecutive championship at Roland Garros and her fourth overall.

Swiatek mentioned in her press conference after winning the title that her triumphant comeback made her realize that she should have faith in herself. She can always rediscover her tennis skills, even when faced with significant difficulties, and stage a comeback.

"When you give it your all, it's always the optimal choice. You won't have any remorse and you can transform competitions into moments like this," she said, gesturing towards the trophy.

After that occasion, the highest-ranked player from Poland effortlessly advanced through the bracket.

The young adult emerged victorious in 64 out of their 81 games, achieving a dominant triumph of 6-2 6-1 against Jasmine Paolini from Italy.

In the fourth round, a match lasting 40 minutes where Anastasia Potapova failed to win a single game was an impressive display by the player. Additionally, in the quarter-finals, the 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova was eliminated with a mere two games won.

Coco Gauff, who won the US Open, put up a stronger fight during the semi-finals. However, Swiatek managed to take control of the match, as she has done in their past encounters.

Swiatek's remarkable display of skill and dominance on the clay court was evident in her unexpected win over Paolini during the final match. Many were surprised by the outcome, as Swiatek appeared to be the overwhelming favorite.

Swiatek mentioned that she has high standards for herself, which leads to feeling pressure frequently.

I believe that I can manage my own stress levels without any difficulty. However, when external stressors begin to affect me, the situation becomes a little more problematic.

"I performed exceptionally during this competition."

Swiatek's dominance on the clay courts of Roland Garros has elevated her status to the point where she is gaining the nickname of 'Clay Court Queen'.

The primary figures demonstrate the reason why:

Swiatek achieved a remarkable feat by winning 21 consecutive matches at the French Open, which ranks as the fourth longest record in women's singles during the Open era.

Swiatek has emerged victorious in 35 out of her 37 matches played at Roland Garros.

It's been a while since she last tasted defeat in Paris, and the year was 2021.

Swiatek clinched her fourth French Open championship in the Open era on Saturday after defeating Paolini, making her the youngest woman to achieve this feat.

Her tally has only been matched or exceeded by three other players: Chris Evert with seven, Steffi Graf with six, and Justine Henin with four.

Evert, a celebrated American tennis player, expressed her concern about Swiatek surpassing her record at the Roland Garros tournament. Evert had won 18 significant titles during the period 1974-1986. She admitted that she is anxious about this possibility on a daily basis.

Evert made a quip on Eurosport, stating that when he rests his head on the pillow, he frets about Iga.

My prediction is that Iga's score will reach ten or more. I firmly believe that she will not only surpass my own record in this field, but will exceed it by ten points or more.

When Swiatek was asked about Evert's remarks, she grinned and replied by saying that the positive feedback was good to hear. However, Swiatek clarified that she doesn't categorize her thoughts in the same way as Evert's.

It's hard to believe that I'm here, having won five Grand Slams. When I was younger, I never would have imagined achieving such success.

Reaching the number ten still feels like a distant possibility.

"I am determined to put in the effort and strive for continual improvement each year, while delivering my finest performance on this tennis court."

Although Swiatek has achieved most of her Grand Slam successes on clay, her supremacy on the WTA Tour has been supported by her proficiency on hard courts.

Another notable achievement of hers was winning the 2022 US Open, where she earned 13 out of her 22 WTA titles on acrylic courts.

Out of all the playing surfaces, grass has been the one that she's struggled with the most. She's only played 23 matches on grass during her professional career. In contrast, she's played 205 matches on hard courts and 90 matches on clay.

Out of all the professional tournaments, Wimbledon is the one where she has had the lowest achievement.

Her strongest showing was during last year's tournament where she made it to the quarter-finals. However, she had previously clinched the junior championship title at the prestigious All England Club in 2018.

Annabel Croft, a former top-ranked British tennis player, predicted that Swiatek would emerge victorious in all four Grand Slam tournaments. In her analysis of the final match for BBC Radio 5 Live, she expressed this belief.

"Observe Nadal - individuals may have previously believed he would never attain victory at Wimbledon, however he managed to discover a method to secure the win."

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