Iga Swiatek’s plans are coming true.


PARIS — After an undefeated streak since February, Iga Swiatek sat in the French Open’s players dining room, shaking her head rapidly from side to side. His eyes widened comically as he dashed back and forth.

This was her impression of her former self.

“I remember a time when I was only able to focus for 40 minutes or so and suddenly my head was like a dove,” Swiatek said in an interview. “I was looking everywhere, but I was looking for where I had to find it.”

Her gaze and game are now fairly stable. After winning the 2020 French Open offseason as a seedless teenager in October, she returns to Paris this spring as a dominant and increasingly intimidating world number one.

At the age of 20, she seems to have acquired all the powers at her disposal, much like a Jedi Knight.

“I’m not a Star Wars fan, but it makes sense,” Swiatek said.

Swiatek, who took first place in the women’s singles rankings on April 3, has won five consecutive tournaments, three on hard court and two on clay. She won 29 straight singles, the longest hitting streak in nine years on the WTA Tour, and is dominated by a biased in-the-zone margin that often jokes that fans should enjoy baking for all the bagels (set 6-0 win). ) and Baguette (set 6-1 win).

She defeated the most famous player of her generation, Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-0, in the Miami Open final last month, and Swiatek reopened their bakery on Monday, beating Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6- in Ukraine qualifier. I did. 0 in 54 minutes in the first round of the French Open.

“If you look at the ranking next to my name, it’s still surreal.” Swiatek, the Polish single’s first number one on both tours, said:

Has she now grown taller as she wanders the arena and locker rooms of Roland Garros, shaking hands with her idol, 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, on the practice court?

“I feel a lot taller than I was two years ago,” she said.

Part of Swiatek’s new dominance is undoubtedly due to the surprise resignation of full-match Australian star Ashleigh Barty, who remained at number one shortly after winning the Australian Open and then suddenly retired in March at the age of 25. Barty lost 2-0 in her match against Swiatek, but defeated her in her tournament in Adelaide, Australia in January. It’s one of only three losses to the Swiatek this season.

But one of the fastest and most acrobatic wrestlers in women’s competition, Swiatek was already building momentum with new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski before Barty retired. With his personal development and yen for world travel, and long-term plans to avoid injury and old age, Swiatek appears to be geared up to become a holding-up champion in women’s matches where the best stars (Sister Williams and Osaka) no longer exist. The best players and too many new stars have either gone down or, in Barty’s case, gone completely.

“You have to remind yourself that you’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Swiatek said. “You cannot burn yourself.”

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Swiatek and her team know that these traits diverge in two directions in a sport where perfection is impossible. It can be discouraging when players lament unavoidable errors, but it can also fuel a deep internal drive.

Swiatek is well aware of its shortcomings. This is partly why she has worked with psychologists since her junior career. She is still struggling. In the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico in November, she started crying on the court in the final round of a round-robin loss to Maria Saqari in the final match of the season.

“I felt like I was getting more and more tired every month, and it was definitely the pinnacle of Guadalajara when I didn’t have a battery to control my emotions,” she said.

She cares about conserving battery power and is aiming for a work-life balance. This means reducing doubles matches and adding more tourist time in the cities you visit after all the pandemic restrictions and tournament-only bubbles in 2020 and 2021. On her way to earning her latest title in Rome this month, she made two visits to the Colosseum and the Vatican.

Avoiding burnout also means compartmentalizing, and Swiatek’s top compartmentalizer is her former performance psychologist Daria Abramowicz.

Swiatek says that after Abramowicz began touring with her to tournaments in 2019, she realized that sports psychology was best practiced on the field, not on a visit to her office in Warsaw.

“In fact, it’s much, much easier to trust someone who’s always around me,” she said.

The 35-year-old Abramowicz is a constant companion on the tournament scene, closely monitoring Swiatek’s mindset and energy levels. She’s pressing Swiatek to keep her replies short at her press conference to save energy. She made sure she didn’t read the end of the novel “Gone with the Wind” the same day she had a match to avoid Swiatek draining her emotions.

Abramowicz wants to create a haven for Swiatek through his routine and support system. “No matter how many storms are around you, the eye of a hurricane should always be calm. This is the key that should always be the same.”

Abramowicz prefers metaphors, and she and Swiatek use images of opening and closing drawers.

“At first, everything about tennis was in one drawer, and non-tennis stuff in one drawer,” Abramowicz said.

But they use it to expand the concept and even break matches into more manageable chunks.

Uses a variety of brain training tools and techniques to increase the playability of the Swiatek in the realm. However, they also used more classical methods: visualization and breathing exercises. Swiatek is sometimes performed when switching with a towel over your head.

For those accustomed to seeing Swiatek play on the court with her hat on and her ponytail hanging back, it’s slightly unusual to be without a hat and with shoulder-length black hair that covers her face with an open gaze.

“I can’t measure how smart she is, but she’s curious and I think that’s a way to get smarter,” said Maciej Ryszczuk, fitness trainer and physical therapist at Swiatek. “If you don’t know something, you ask, and if you don’t know, you read it.”

Swiatek is ashamed of herself and tired of socializing too much, but she is an easy friend. She is also quick to speak English as a second language. She can joke. She trades her book recommendations, biasing or outright rejecting her praises, as easily as her grounding strokes, even if her book titles, contrary to her tennis titles, sometimes offend her.

For her 20th birthday, her management team gave her 20 books. It’s because Swiatek, who is all in Polish, speaks fluent English, but she still feels like studying. “I always write down words I don’t know,” she said.

The subject matter of the 20 books ranged from “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell to “The Crisis Caravan” by Linda Polman to “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert.

“Sometimes I feel weird after not reading a book for a few days,” Swiatek said. “Oh, it’s because I feel like it’s a sign that I don’t have the balance I need to have in my life.”

Although there were no tennis books in her birthday package, she read Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open” twice. In her autobiography, she wrote about how he fell in love with her while she hated games.

Where is she on that scale?

“Wow, woah, woah, that’s tough.” She spoke with a voice that seemed to be about to laugh, without turning into a laugh, as she often did.

“It’s clearly a love-hate relationship,” she said of tennis. “I’m not the kind of person who fell in love in the first place. I know that if my father hadn’t been persistent and encouraged me to continue playing tennis, he probably wouldn’t be playing tennis now. But certainly I am the kind of person who likes to finish what I start.”

Swiatek’s father and former Olympic rower Tomasz Swiatek is still involved in her career and is organizing the WTA tournament in Warsaw later this year. According to Abramowicz, her parents are divorced and her mother, an orthodontist, is “not pictured”.

Just over $9 million in career prizes, Swiatek bought a small apartment in Warsaw, but still lives in a family home on the outskirts of Raszyn.

Her road trip has been very successful recently as the tight Swiatek to the baseline gives rhythm and shrinks open spaces. You walk quickly between points and set a great pace when the points start.

I feel confident about the aggressive Plan A. This full-court press is by design. It’s part of a plan proposed by Witkorowski, who previously worked with Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, who retired in 2018 and second worldwide.

Witkorowski joined Swiatek in December during off-season after breaking up with her coach Piotr Sierzputowski for five years. Witkorowski highlighted the positives, which became evident by watching her match video. Swiatek wanted to see defeat to learn from her mistakes. He insisted on watching her win and focusing on her strengths.

“It made me believe that I could be more aggressive on the court and actually use my strengths,” she said. But this year, I want to be more active. I want to lead.”

A trick-shot artist nicknamed The Magician, Radwanska was the most successful modern Polish player even Swiatek. However, “Aga” was a weak counter-puncher compared to “Iga”, which featured an explosive inside-out forehand and pounding strike. It features heavy topspin.

Swiatek believes in her work and believes she has “good genes” thanks to her Olympic father. “I think my body was built for sports,” she said.

She and Ryszczuk never miss a chance. She uses her exercise bike for cardio, so she doesn’t run off the court to avoid straining her legs.

“The important thing is to keep her safe, strong and healthy,” he said.

Long term planner for long term planners who like to make good use of Google Calendar and take control of their business as well as their own strokes.

“I have read too many deals and contracts in the last 18 months,” she said. “I’ve heard stories of players who are really irresponsible in that part of their lives,” she said. When I was young, I made a lot of mistakes when signing autographs. So I’m reading it all now.”

She’s winning everything, and it’s certainly no coincidence. On Thursday, two days before this French Open, she was talking on her phone outside her main arena and Abramowicz was watching her from her distant bench.

“Today is the last day I can make a business call,” Abramowicz explains. “Then it’s time to close that drawer and open another one.”

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