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'Swiatek could become the dominant player in women's tennis'

June 02, 2022 00:25 IST
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'It looks like she's going to win many majors'

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: Iga Swiatek did not lose a set when she won her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2020 and has dropped just one during her current campaign. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

World number one Iga Swiatek believes she is doing a good job at handling expectations as she continues her bid to win a second French Open title.

Swiatek, who turned 21 on Tuesday, has won five consecutive tournaments, including four WTA 1000 titles, and is currently on a 33-match winning streak as she prepares to take on Russian Daria Kasatkina in the semi-finals at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Tennis great John McEnroe feels the pressure of being the overwhelming favourite could get to Swiatek.

 

Seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe said the burden of expectation could possibly be the only thing that could stop 2020 French Open winner Swiatek from lifting the Suzanne Lenglen trophy for a second time.

"Everyone expects her to win. It's tough," Eurosport tennis expert McEnroe told Reuters this week. "It's possible that she might feel the pressure would get to her a little bit."

Swiatek did not lose a set when she won her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2020 and has dropped just one during her current campaign.

She travels with a sports psychologist in her team and has credited Daria Abramowicz in the past for becoming mentally stronger.

"This tournament, it's a Grand Slam, so it's tough," she told reporters on Wednesday after defeating Jessica Pegula to set up a semi-final against 20th seed Kasatkina. "So I think only underdogs can feel more free on Grand Slams.

"But on the other hand I'm also learning how to deal with the pressure and expectations and I think I'm doing a good job."

Swiatek, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open at the start of the year, fell at the last-eight stage at Roland Garros in 2021 while defending her title.

The Pole said she wanted to do better this time and felt the pressure.

"I'm even more proud of myself that I could cope with that and really push myself to not think about that and to just focus on tennis," she added.

McEnroe said it was likely that Swiatek could become the dominant player in women's tennis for the next few years.

"I don't know how comfortable she's going to be on grass right now. I don't know if her game is quite ready for that," the 63-year-old said. "I could be wrong. But it looks like she's going to win many majors. Yeah, for sure."

Swiatek primed for another shot at French Open title as semis loom

Cracks have appeared in Iga Swiatek's armour in her last two French Open matches, but it is still hard to see past the Polish world number one as the hot favourite at Roland Garros as she gears up for her semi-final in Paris.

The 21-year-old Swiatek has won 33 games in a row and should she see off Russian Daria Kasatkina on Thursday she will match Serena Williams's winning run from 2013.

The 2020 champion, looking to become only the fourth woman to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup more than once since 2000 - after Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova - has dropped one set and showed some early nerves in the quarter-finals.

But she appears to be in another league tennis-wise, and Kasaktina, who has a powerful forehand and a strong baseline game, will need to be mentally tough and find a way other than through groundstrokes to throw the Pole off course.

Kasatkina, 25, will be playing in her first major semi-finals and seems to like her chances despite having lost all three of her matches against Swiatek this year in straight sets.

"We played few times this year, but I mean OK, I lost those matches, but that was a different story. It was a hard court, beginning of the year, I was not in the same shape as I am now," she said.

"So I cannot compare what we are going to have tomorrow and what we had in February, March when we were playing. So it's going to be a completely different match."

One thing is certain: Kasatkina will need to be ready from the first point.

"I kind of want to start from the beginning and maybe take advantage of what I know about her game," said Swiatek.

"The main key for me is to just play my tennis and play aggressively and try to dominate from the beginning."

In the other semi-final, American 18th seed Coco Gauff, who has been maturing into a solid claycourt player, faces Italian Martina Trevisan.

Gauff, 18, was stopped by eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in the quarter-finals last year and she is taking a different approach this time.

"I feel like last year I was looking at the finish line, and now I'm not looking at anything really except that ball in front of me," Gauff said.

"So I think to be honest, going into the next match I'm just going to approach it the same. I mean, I care about the results, yes, but also at the same time I don't. Like if I gave it my all I'm not going to be upset."

The unseeded Trevisan made it to the quarter-finals in 2020, where she lost to Swiatek, and she will now look to emulate her fellow Italians Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani, finalists in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Schiavone won the title in 2010.

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Source: REUTERS
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