As she approaches her 22nd birthday during the first week of the French Open, Swiatek enters as the favorite for a third title in four years in Paris, though she may encounter tougher opposition than her unstoppable campaign last year.
Swiatek’s affinity for clay is undeniable. In 2022, she dropped just one set en route to claiming the title at Roland Garros, reaffirming her status as a force to be reckoned with.
Her victory not only marked her second French Open triumph but also propelled her career to new heights, becoming Poland’s first-ever Grand Slam singles champion.
Last year’s final saw Swiatek dominate Coco Gauff, showcasing her dominance on the red dirt. Swiatek’s remarkable 37-match winning streak was eventually halted at Wimbledon.
The current season has been nothing short of impressive for Swiatek. She has already added two titles to her collection, triumphing on hard courts in Qatar and on clay in Stuttgart.
Additionally, she has reached two other finals, highlighting her consistent and stellar performance across different surfaces. Swiatek’s recent successes further solidify her position as one of the top contenders for the Roland Garros crown.
But her rivals have clearly stepped up to the plate.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina overpowered Swiatek in the India Wells semi-final while Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka beat Swiatek on clay in the Madrid final, albeit in faster conditions than are usually found in Paris.
Swiatek has also been troubled by a right thigh injury that flared up in Rome where she retired during the third set of a quarter-final scrap with Rybakina.
She has given optimistic updates on that injury and will be desperate to be firing on all cylinders in Paris. Organisers and fans alike will certainly hope so, because Swiatek in full flow on clay is quite a spectacle.
Blessed with one of the most destructive forehands in the women’s game (think German great Steffi Graf’s but with more spin), Swiatek is also a master tactician who appears to have umpteen solutions to any puzzle on a clay court.
Her mental fortitude is also proven, with Warsaw native Swiatek able to thrive under pressure, a result of her work with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz.
So while the challengers have thrown down the gauntlet for what promises to be an enthralling women’s tournament, Swiatek will not be losing too much sleep about them.
“I know that there are players that are more solid throughout the whole season. You can see that from rankings, also from how they play,” she said in Rome recently.
“I’m more focused on myself. I don’t really look at other players that are playing well. Doesn’t really make much sense for me to over-analyse that.”
(With Reuters inputs)