Iga-croyable: ‘I feel like I'm playing better every match’

After a dominant return to her second Slam final in Paris, Swiatek said her best tennis may still be ahead

Iga Swiatek, demi-finales, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Stephanie Livaudais

Back into the Roland-Garros final for the second time in three years and riding a head-turning winning streak, world No.1 Iga Swiatek is a player at the peak of her powers.

The 21-year-old Pole confounds her opponents, and overwhelms them with her stellar court coverage and aggressive game style – qualities that were on full display in her 6-2, 6-1 rout of Daria Kasatkina on Thursday at Court Philippe-Chatrier. 

But ever the champion, Swiatek is not satisfied yet. Nor is she anywhere close to her highest level, as she told press in a revealing self-assessment after that semi-final.

“I'm even more happy with the performance than after the previous match,” Swiatek said, referring to her similarly lop-sided 6-3, 6-2 win over Jessica Pegula. “Because I feel like my game is getting more and more solid.

“I can really loosen up when I'm getting advantage and when I'm having a break, so that's great. I feel like I'm playing better every match.”

A Swiatek that is playing loose and getting better with every match? That would send an ominous message to the rest of the field – except that she’s already swept them aside over six matches at Roland-Garros.

The Pole came into the French capital having not lost a match since February – a 34-match winning run that has seen Swiatek lift trophies in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami during the hard court swing, and continue without missing a beat by winning Stuttgart and Rome in the build-up to Roland-Garros.

While others may have crumpled under the spotlight and pressure, the Swiatek has been taking everything in stride and avoiding expectations – with a bit of help from her team.

“I try not to hold it inside, and I try to talk with the whole team about it,” she said. “It's just cool that I have people around that I trust, and I can just talk about some stuff over lunch.

“But for sure the pep talks that I have before the match are really helpful, both from the coach [Tomasz Wiktorowski] and from Daria [Abramowicz, my psychologist]. We already have this kind of routine that is working perfectly, and we are trying to hold on to that.”

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Dames, 1/2 Finale, Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

With her sports psychologist in tow, Swiatek has been winning the mental game at Roland-Garros, as well as the tactical one. She stayed cool under the glare of many a viewfinder, dropping just one set en route to the final.

Not to mention, Swiatek developed an aura during her winning run, with her opponents already on edge by the time they strike the first ball. And with good reason: when she lost the opening set in her fourth round to Zheng Qinwen, Swiatek responded by raising her level and winning 12 of the next 14 games, 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2.

“When I learned how to also improve during tournaments and how to loosen up during tournaments, I think it's pretty great, because the beginnings are tough,” she said. “Here I feel better and better every match, so I hope it's going to stay that way.

“It's a nice feeling to have, because usually, it's sometimes the opposite. For other players when they are going to higher rounds they are more stressed, and I'm working pretty hard at the beginning to avoid that.”

Swiatek has indeed been looking positively serene as the tournament draws to a close. She’s one win away from lifting her second Roland-Garros trophy, with 18-year-old Coco Gauff playing in her first Grand Slam final standing in her way.

It will be a full-circle role reversal for Swiatek. Back in 2020, the unheralded Pole ranked No.54 stunned viewers when she toppled world No.2 Simona Halep – snapping the heavily-favoured Romanian’s own 17-match win streak on her way to the trophy.

Gauff could now do the same to her in the final. But Swiatek – who owns the 2-0 lead in their head-to-head – is determined to stick to the game plan, for one last bit of magic on Saturday.

“Just being able to be in the final again, it's great,” said Swiatek. “Especially when I didn't know actually how I'm gonna play here after so many tournaments that I played.

“It seemed kind of obvious for me that the streak may come to an end soon. So I just wanted to take it really step by step. I didn't have any exact goals on this tournament.

“Just seeing how my game is developing every match, it's something that's giving me a lot of hope and I'm just proud of myself.”