Iga Swiatek's name over the past 18 months, has been synonymous with absolute superiority on the WTA tour, but how did it begin?
Amazingly, the 22-year-old pole only claimed the top spot on April 4th, 2022, due to then-world number one and crowd favourite Ashleigh Barty suddenly retiring. This prompted a major storm of negative comments, saying her ascent to the top was underserved and a ‘gift from Ash’.
She definitely debunked those thoughts and comments very quickly with her number one reign, becoming one of the most dominant maiden top of the world rises in history, so I wanted to reflect and marvel at how someone who many knew as a clay courter became the best player in the world.
After claiming the top spot the day after she won the Miami Open and extended a winning run to seventeen matches, it seemed she grew in confidence as Swiatek did not lose a match until Wimbledon.
To put that into context, from April 4th, she extended her winning streak to 37 matches and won a further three tournaments in Stuttgart, Rome, and finally the French Open, only dropping SEVEN sets along the way.
Her French Open victory was most impressive, as she did not drop a set throughout the entire tournament. This run received several comments commending her level, with QF opponent Jessica Pegula saying, She's kind of hit another level than all of us right now, and ESPN analyst Pam Shriver also stating, ‘Any contender to win this championship wanted to be in the bottom half of the draw and away from Iga.
After also claiming four top-ten wins and two separate victories over former major champions, the longest win streak since Martina Hingis’ in 1997 was ended with a straight-set loss against Alize Cornet in the third round at Wimbledon.
She struggled after that, as she would only win four out of her next seven matches, but as all great champions do, she rose to the challenge in a major and won her first major title on a different surface than clay, coming back from a set down TWICE, including once against the in form Aryna Sabalenka.
It’s safe to say many changed their minds with her complete dominance on the tour in 2022, including eight titles and fifteen top ten wins.
2023 has brought less success as big-hitting players like Elena Rybakina and the aforementioned Sabalenka have closed the gap between Swiatek and the rest of the tour by exhibiting a blueprint on how to trouble the now four-time slam winner.
Despite saying that, she has still had a solid amount of success, as up to this point, the Pole has won four titles, including the Stuttgart WTA 500 and defending her 2022 French Open title.
Due to her loss in the fourth round at the US Open against Jelena Ostapenko, she relinquished the number one ranking to Sabalenka for the first time since she first claimed it 75 weeks earlier.
Her extremely consistent baseline game coupled with her insane court coverage, where she is able to slide incredibly far on different surfaces, has helped change the views of uneducated fans who say she isn’t entertaining or was one of the weakest number one players in history.
She has dropped to second in the world rankings but is eager to fight more than ever to reclaim the top spot, stating in an Instagram post after her US Open fourth round loss, New season, next tournament, new opportunities to gain, achieve more’.
I have no doubt Swiatek will return to number one in the world at some point, potentially even this year, but after the retirement of someone as loved and respected as Ash Barty, the WTA tour needed a new star/s to guide them into a new era, and I strongly believe Iga, along with Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka, and teenager Coco Gauff, can do just that.