Focused Swiatek is up for Halep challenge

 - Danielle Rossingh

Polish teen puts together an impressive first week to set up a fourth round rematch with top-seeded Halep

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

For the second year running, Iga Swiatek has reached the second week of Roland-Garros. And this time, she hasn’t got school exams to worry about.

“I wrote my graduation exam during lockdown, and finally I was kind of free,” the 19-year-old told in an interview.

Swiatek, a former junior Wimbledon champion and the 2018 Roland-Garros junior doubles winners alongside Caty Mc Nally, had been juggling school in Poland with playing tennis during her debut in the main draw in Paris last year.

Still, she beat Olympic champion Monica Puig before losing to the eventual champion, Simona Halep, in the fourth round.

“I want to have two gap years to see how my tennis is going to develop when I don’t have other things in my life,” said the 54th-ranked Pole, when asked if she would go to university.

“So I just want to fully focus on that. It depends, if I am going to be top-10 and I am going to be fighting for Grand Slams, then for sure I am not going to have time for university. I am going to work more on my image and my career. But if I am still top-100 for a few more years, then probably, I am going to go to university.”

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Swiatek’s increased focus on her tennis is paying dividends at Roland-Garros, where she marched into the second week without the loss of a single set.

She brushed aside Marketa Vondrousova, last year’s finalist from the Czech Republic, in her opening round, followed by the crafty Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei in the second round, and former semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the third round.

Swiatek has dropped just 13 games through three matches and is averaging 26 winners per round.


Just like in 2019, Halep awaits in the fourth round in Paris. Even though Swiatek only won one game against the Romanian 2018 champion last year, she now looks back on that encounter as a valuable experience. 

“With the match against Simona, which lasted like 40 minutes, I learned even then new things,” she said. “For example, I didn’t even know that I was so stressed playing...then after I lost, I was pretty mad that I couldn’t show my best tennis, but I realised that it was just stress, and that I can work through it.”

Swiatek was so happy she finally finished her exams this spring, she went on a mini-break to the Masurian Lake District, in the northeastern part of Poland, with her team, which features coach Piotr Sierzputowski, and her sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.

Activities included playing tennis on a standup paddleboard, and having a rally with her coach with both of them standing on different boats.

“It was the first vacation in my life, because I went to school normally, I was attending classes,” she said. “So when I was in Warsaw, I basically never had time to rest after tournaments.

“I went with my coach and more people from my team, because we kind of missed travelling together,” she said. “It was nice, and we had tennis racquets, I don’t know, it wasn’t a plan to play on the boat, that was fun. It was weird for me to have four days off, so I was just doing weird things.”

An engaging and outgoing character with an inquisitive mind, it is taking Swiatek some time to get used to no longer being in education.

“Even now, three months after finishing school, it’s weird not to have anything except tennis,” she said. “I had a lot to do, but it was also good for my health, not to think the whole day about tennis. So I guess I have to find something that’s going to give me that something else.”