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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday May 16, 2021

Iga Swiatek has been known to dominate tennis draws, even at her young age. The Pole dropped just 28 games en route to her first Grand Slam title last year at Roland Garros, which was the second-fewest games ever dropped en route to a title at Roland Garros.

Tennis Express

Fewest games lost, Roland Garros Women's Singles champion:

20: Stefanie Graf (1988)
28: Chris Evert (1979)
28: Iga Swiatek (2020)
29: Serena Williams (2013)
30: Martina Navratilova (1984)

At Adelaide earlier this year, Swiatek dropped just 22 games en route to her second career title.

But title No.3 was a new experience altogether for the 19-year-old. Swiatek struggled to find her form in the early rounds and even had to save match points against Barbora Krejcikova to reach the quarterfinals.

“It's a new experience for me,” she said in her Zoom press conference after the final. “Actually, it's a good way to call it like two phases of the tournament, because at the beginning it was really, really hard. You know, I actually wasn't thinking that it's gonna be enough to do—I'm not talking about winning the tournament—to even do a good result.”

Swiatek says her team played a big role in helping her stay calm during days when her confidence might have otherwise wavered.

“Day after day I was feeling a little bit better and I just focused on that,” she said. “I had good people around me that were telling me not to really worry and that sometimes it's the best idea not to care.”

On Saturday Swiatek seemed to fully hit her stride. She stormed past two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina and then downed Coco Gauff to book a spot in the Rome final on her second appearance at the Foro Italico.

“I think playing yesterday two matches actually gave me more than it would usually, because I would get tired, but this time I was in a rhythm and I could feel that for, like, three hours yesterday. So it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Visualizing a Close Match: Swiatek on the art of Front-Running

Swiatek said that the key to dominating Pliskova in the final was to play a trick on her mind. Instead of relaxing when the scoreline grew lopsided, she told herself that it was close, and remained worried about the danger that Pliskova posed. A very mature approach for a young player that clearly has a knack for the art of front-running.

“I don't know actually what Karolina was saying about her performance, but from the beginning I felt that she may be a little bit nervous, and I wanted to use that and actually play as many games with that vibe as I can,” she said. “That's why it was pretty fast at the beginning. But it's not easy to actually win the first set 6-0, because you always have in the back of the mind that your opponent may start playing better and they can change the tactics completely, and then you have to adjust and then you're going to start worrying.”

Swiatek focused her mind during changeovers on a different match. One that was completive, and one that she couldn’t afford to slip up in.

“So when I was on the breaks, I was visualizing that I'm starting that match from the beginning every time,” she said. “Actually, I did that so well that I didn't even know that it was 6-0 in the first set.

“So that was kind of funny, because I asked my coach what was the score after the match. … When my coach told me it was 6-0, 6-0, I was, like, Really? Isn't that a mistake?”

The key is not overthinking it, says Swiatek. “The key is just to not to think about it and just play. Because when you're gonna think about the score, you can actually like ruin your mindset and ruin your attitude. I think mentally I was really in good shape today.

On Finally Hitting Top 10: “Pretty Crazy”

It seems absurd that Swiatek, after winning Roland-Garros in October and adding another 500 title in February, hadn’t cracked the Top 10 yet, but it’s true. On Monday she’ll claim her spot in the Top 10 for the first time when the updated WTA rankings are released.

“It is pretty crazy and I'm really proud of myself that I'm actually starting to be more consistent, because that was my goal from the beginning. Actually, I feel right now that I am doing huge progress in that matter,” Swiatek said. “But it was actually a bit frustrating after French Open, because sometimes you can't, you know, see the result of your work. Obviously winning a Grand Slam is great, but after that comes rankings, and this year it was different.”

The Pole says that more important than the ranking is the fact that she is achieving her stated goal of becoming a consistent week-in, week-out threat to win titles on tour.

“I'm really proud that I'm gonna have, you know, in my résumé that I'm top 10, because I always wanted that. I also want to be consistent. So right now our goal is to, you know, keep me in that place and go further.”