Iga Swiatek’s great march to Paris

The Polish woman, whose surname is pronounced SCHVI-ON-TEK, was only 18 years old and was not the slightest professional crown to show on the tables in her living room. Just a few promising feats, like a final in the WTA 250 tournament in Lugano or even a presence in the round of 16 at Roland-Garros in 2019.

Then, in the fall of 2020, two weeks will have been enough to project the adolescent into the world of adults.

Just under two years later, same scene, different role. We no longer wonder how to pronounce his name, but who can stop it.

Iga Swiatek walks on mud just as easily as Jesus walked on water. (Source: el Bible). She arrives in Paris crowned with titles won in Rome, Stuttgart, Miami, Indian Wells and Doha. Since the beginning of the year, he has won 37 of his 40 matches.

He has not lost a single game since February 16, a defeat in Dubai against Latvian Jelena Ostapenko. Her 28-win streak, albeit light years ahead of Martina Navratilova’s record of 74, is one of the most impressive in 20 years.

Swiatek ranked No. 1 in the world when Australian Ashleigh Barty surprisingly pulled off her crown in late March.

Former world number one Ashley Barty retired in March.

Photo: Reuters / Robert Deutsch

Swiatek quickly proved that he was not the world number one by default.

Beyond victories, there is also the path. Nineteen of his last 20 games have been won in straight sets and often with low scores. On clay, the more your matches progress, the more you can’t play.

In Rome, for example, after pocketing the first set in the quarter-final tie against Bianca Andreescu, it was 6-0 in the second. He then went 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals against Aryna Sabalenka, before dismissing Ons Jabeur in the final with a score of 6-2, 6-2. The Tunisian, however, had been crowned in Madrid the previous week and overrated with a streak of 11 consecutive victories.

Iga, it’s Igasaid Jabeur after his defeat.

What means? It means a combination of vigor, combativeness in exchange for service, variety in his blows and ease in his movements on clay. All her strengths put her in a class of her own right now. Otherwise, who can win? Ons Jabeur loves clay and has already beaten Swiatek twice in his career, but never on clay.

Greek Maria Sakkari, number 4, could claim the title, even if she only won one WTA tournament, in 2019. She was also the one who eliminated Swiatek in the quarterfinals at Roland-Garros in 2021, before being eliminated by eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in the semifinals.

Can world number 3 Paula Badosa win a major first title? Technically, yes, it can, though its 2022 clay court season will probably never hit the big Hollywood screen.

We can also hear the American contingent. Could 2022 be the spring of Coco Gauff’s outbreak? Or the confirmation of Jessica Pegula, a finalist in Madrid? Or the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, if she finds some coherence for the fortnight?

With his headphones on, he looks up and walks past a large sign with his name on it.

Naomi Osaka retired from Roland Garros last year.

Photo: Getty Images / Elsa

And Paris has never smiled at Naomi Osaka. Last year, he left the tournament before his second-round match, threatened with punishment if he continued his boycott at press conferences.

Emma Raducanu, who went from champion in New York in September to a player looking for confidence and stability in her team? During her last tournaments, she was accompanied by Iain Bates, the great officer of British women’s tennis.

He also reportedly worked on his technique in recent months with the Canadian Louis Cayer, who has been in exile in England for years.

A victory for Raducanu in Paris seems very uncertain.

Encouraging Andreescu, Fernández hoped

Bianca Andreescu is the opponent who has given Iga Swiatek the most problems in the last week in Rome if we look strictly at the number of games allowed. By the way, the Canadian was also one of the few who shook the Polish a bit.

Back on the pitch after a break of several months and after thinking about never coming back, Andreescu seems to be in a very good mood.

A tennis player in a cap smiles and raises her head in relief during a match.

Bianca Andreescu in Rome

Photo: Getty Images / Julian Finney

After winning a game in Stuttgart, he won two in Madrid, then three in Rome. Her three defeats were against established players in the top 15 in the world: Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula and Swiatek.

Predicting a victory for the Ontarian in the French capital would be, to say the least, daring. In 2021, she was defeated in the first round by Slovenian Tamara Zidansek, a possible surprise semifinalist.

In 2019, in his first tournament after a shoulder injury, he passed the first round before having to give up the second. This time, the physical and mental health indicators are green.

Andreescu, the 72nd player in the world, will start her tournament against a player from the classification.

Leylah Annie Fernandez, who will be the 17th seed, has a date with 110th WTA Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, whom she has never faced.

Since her magical fortnight in New York in September, the 19-year-old has not defeated any of the top 10 players in the world.

A tennis player throws the ball in the air while serving on a clay court.

Leylah Annie Fernandez

Photo: Getty Images / Clive Brunskill

The left, of course, triumphed in March in Monterrey, on the hard track, but has so far not had an extraordinary season on clay.

The junior Roland-Garros champion in 2019 shows a record of two wins to three defeats this season on clay.

If his fighting spirit and aggression are never (or rarely) lacking, when he waits for his well-planted rivals at his baseline, the surprise effect he enjoyed in New York seems to have disappeared.

Therefore, he will have to progress one game at a time, with a pickaxe and a shovel, which he has always done on a tennis court.

And to make those who doubt her lie. Which has also been a good thing for the last 12 months.

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