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Second Serve


By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 18, 2024

Iga Swiatek leaves Rome as the hottest player in tennis, having reeled off 12 consecutive victories and in the process become the third woman in history to have claimed the prestigious Madrid and Rome titles back-to-back.

Now the big challenge of the clay season comes calling.

The 22-year-old will head to Paris to try to become the second woman in history to claim a rare clay-court triple by winning Madrid, Rome and Paris in the same season. Only 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, in 2013, has previously achieved the feat.

Tennis Express

Though Swiatek will be the overwhelming favorite, the three-time Roland Garros champion prefers to keep her focus on the controllables. She talks repeatedly about process, about staying humble, and she backs up her words by never underestimating an opponent.

Sounds a lot like 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal in many ways, doesn’t it?

“Obviously I am confident. I feel like I'm playing great tennis,” Swiatek said on Saturday after taking out Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-3. “But it doesn't change the fact that I really want to stay humble and really focused on getting everything step by step. Grand Slams are different. There is different pressure on the court and off the court.”

Now 36-4 on the season, and 14-1 on clay (77-10 lifetime), Swiatek says the work she has put in to improve her serve is helping her win matches on the biggest stages this spring.

She only lost 18 points on serve against Sabalenka and saved each of the seven break points she faced. It’s a sign that she is able to play a higher percentage of service points on her terms, which allows her to dictate and dominate early and often.

“Overall I try to treat these points as any other point. I'm not feeling like I'm under so much pressure,” she said of the break points she saved against Sabalenka as she claimed her 21st career title. “Maybe also because I know I'm a great returner, even if I'm going to get broken, I can work it out.

“I think in this tournament, my serve was kind of really helping me. All this work that we've been putting actually paid off in those important moments. I'm really happy with that because that's what we've been working for.”

Swiatek will try to carry the same vibe into Paris, where she has won 25 of 26 matches since the start of her title run in 2020. The Pole is on a 14-match Paris winning streak and will bid to become the first woman to win three straight Roland Garros titles since Justine Henin in 2007.

She says she is less stressed this year because she is thinking less about rankings and more about staying locked into the process.

“I'm chilled out because I kind of knew that if I'm going to work hard and if I'm going to be in the right mindset, this is achievable,” she said. “I'm happy I was so focused and disciplined throughout the tournament to do that. I feel like I'm in the right place.”

It all adds up to a tremendous opportunity for Swiatek, and an extremely tall task for anyone with designs on stopping her in Paris…