Safely through to the second week at Wimbledon, Iga Świątek is looking to win her maiden title on the hallowed grass courts at the All England Club.
Up until now, Wimbledon was the only grand slam the world number 1 hadn’t made it past the round of 16.
On Sunday, Świątek had her toughest test yet, saving match points on her way to victory over Switzerland’s, Belinda Bencic in 3 gripping sets.
“Every day my love for the grass is getting bigger,” said the Pole, beaming in her post-match interview.
It doesn’t get any easier for Świątek, as she will next face Elina Svitolina, who is having a second-wind in her career. After dropping out of the top 10 in 2021, Svitolina had her first child last year. Already having a stellar year with a quarter final appearance at Roland Garros, the Ukrainian also knows her way around a grass court making the semi finals at Wimbledon in 2019.
Self-acknowledging about her challenges on grass leading up to Wimbledon, Iga is looking to break the duck and become a player for all surfaces.
Already a dominant force on hard court and especially clay, the Polish star has yet to win a WTA title on grass.
To do this, Iga will not only have to conquer her grass court demons, but some in-form players that are fast becoming fierce rivals.
Her two biggest challengers for the title appear to be Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, both of whom have had an excellent 12 months.
Both Sabalenka and Rybakina won their maiden grand slam in the past year, Sabalenka at the Australian Open this year and Rybakina at Wimbledon last year.
Sabalenka won her last match against the world number 1 in the final at Madrid on Iga's favourite surface while Rybakina has won all 3 of her matches against Iga in 2023 although Swiatek did retire in the Rome quarter final at 2-2 in the deciding set.
Both Sabalenka and Rybakina are closing the gap mentally and asking serious questions of Świątek.
Another potential challenger is Ons Jabeur, who beat Iga at Wimbledon in 2021.
The Tunisian number 1 lost to Rybakina in last year’s final in a tight 3 set match. After losing the first set, Rybakina wrestled back control of the match and put matters on her terms.
All 3 players have contrasting game styles that can cause headaches for Świątek.
Both Sabalenka and Rybakina are aggressive players with big serves and powerful groundstrokes. This style tends to bode well on the slick grass courts at Wimbledon.
Jabeur, meanwhile, is built more in the mould of our very own, Ash Barty. Lacking in height and power, Jabeur makes up for it with her ability to mix up the play with her cutting slice and cunning drop shots.
So far, Iga’s confidence has appeared to grow with each match and, in her own words, she is “open-minded for the grass season”. Her win over Bencic was Iga’s first real test of the tournament and one that’ll only solidify her confidence on grass.
To have a serious chance at winning Wimbledon, Świątek will no doubt have to dig deeper than she ever has before. Not only will Iga have to consistently produce her best tennis on her least favourite surface, she will have to do so against a growing group of players that are gunning for her.
The test for Świątek will be largely mental, as she will need to adapt her game against a range of differing styles, absorbing the power of the aggressive baseliners like Sabalenka and Rybakina and being prepared for crafty players like Jabeur who will attempt to interrupt the Pole’s rhythm.
If Iga can finally conquer SW19, it will be a further confidence boost as she will not only have won a grand slam on all surfaces but she may start to separate herself from the rest of the WTA field.
And at 22 years of age, she still has a very long career ahead of her. If Świątek were to win Wimbledon, there would be very little from stopping her upward trajectory and cementing herself as one of the all time greats.