Last year, on October 10, a 19-year old teenager hit a forehand winner to the corner on Court Philippe-Chatrier and crouched to the ground in disbelief. Along with her, tennis lovers around the globe were in awe and disbelief. Iga Swiatek had just won the French Open with a performance uncanny in the recent past.
Unseeded and unknown, Swiatek arrived in Paris ranked No. 54 in the world. She had never advanced past the fourth round of a major or won a title of any kind on the WTA Tour. Her build up to the French Open was no good either. She lost in the very first round of the Italian Open coming into Paris and hence, nobody paid much heed to her.
But Swiatek single handedly dominated the two weeks in Paris. Not only she didn’t drop a set, neither of her opponents could win more than 5 games in their match. The maximum number of games either of her opponent took from her in a set was four, in the final Kenin won 4 games in the first set while Su-Wei Hsieh took 4 games in the second set of second round.
She started off her campaign on a bang defeating 2018 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the first round. Remarkably, she dropped just 3 games against the Czech. Moving ahead, she registered straight sets victories over Su-Wei Hsieh and Eugenie Bouchard in the second and third round respectively to set up a mouth-watering clash against top seed Simona Halep.
Demolishing the Top seed
The two players met in the Round of 16 at the 2019 French Open, and here they were, a year later competing at the very same stage. Simona Halep demolished Swiatek in 2019 in straight sets 6-1,6-0 and went in as a huge favorite to repeat the same result in 2020.
But little did Halep knew that a Swiatek storm was on cards that evening. The young Pole blew the Romanian away, losing just 3 games in the process, defeating her 6-1,6-2 to enter her first grand slam quarter-final. Swiatek was in tears after her victory and admitted she had surprised herself with her level of play.
The Pole met qualifier Martina Trevisan in quarter-final whom she ousted comfortably 6-3,6-1 to reach the Last 4. She faced yet another qualifier, Nadia Podoroska in the semi-final. The Argentine was carrying momentum after she upset third seed Elina Svitolina in quarter-final and hence Swiatek was in for a tough match. But like other, Podoroska too had no answers for Swiatek’s brilliance. She cruised past the qualifier in straight sets 6-2,6-1 to reach her maiden grand slam final.
The Final: Iga Swiatek vs Sofia Kenin
Swiatek was to face Australian Open Champion, Sofia Kenin in the Final. The Pole was playing tennis of the highest caliber. She had just dropped 20 games coming into the Final. Despite her lack of experience, Swiatek was the betting favorite entering the championship match.
But still, there were questions about Swiatek’s nerves entering the biggest match of her career. She silenced those quickly, winning 12 of the first 18 points, and blasted out to a 3-0 lead in just eight minutes. Kenin, known for her tenacity and grit on the court, fought back as she often does but fell short to Swiatek’s masterclass. The Pole took the opening set 6-4.
The American found a bit of rhythm in the later stages of the first set and was expected to give a hard time to Swiatek. But the Pole had different plans. After losing the first game, she went to to win 6 straight games to close out the second set and the match in style. The scoreline read 6-4,6-1 in favor of Swiatek.
The underdog story was finally completed. A young girl coming into the tournament with not much experience had silenced the best in the world with her racket. She put up a show that fortnight- a kind of domination that would go down in the history books. Indeed, a Pole Star was born!