Swiatek on song, sends Halep packing

Polish teen avenges fourth-round defeat to top seed Halep, as qualifier Trevisan stuns No.5 seed Bertens

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2020, fourth round©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Ravi Ubha

Iga Swiatek is a fan of rock band AC/DC and admits her go-to song at this year’s Roland-Garros has been ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by another rock outfit, Guns N’ Roses.

Lately, though, she has been listening to jazz, a genre often associated with more mellow tones.

The mix is much like her tennis — generally loud and powerful, with a healthy dose of finesse for good measure.

Her big, heavy forehand and touch on drop shots are causing havoc to opponents, with top seed Simona Halep the latest to experience the Polish teen’s impressive arsenal.

Swiatek told on-court interviewer Cedric Pioline she couldn’t quite believe she had beaten Halep and in such resounding fashion, 6-1, 6-2, a year after she fell to the Romanian in 45 minutes at the same stage.

The 19-year-old’s shock at what had just unfolded was just as prevalent when she later addressed reporters.

“I am, I think stunned,” said Swiatek, who is into her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

The dots have thus been connected. 

Those with good memories will recall last year in Paris, Halep defeated Swiatek 6-1, 6-0 before exiting to another player born in 2001, Amanda Anisimova.

On Friday, Halep got the better of Anisimova 6-0, 6-1 and indeed who was on the other side of the net waiting for her Sunday? Swiatek.

The Pole certainly noted the coincidence and drew inspiration from it.

“I just felt that it’s possible and I could do it,” Swiatek said. “I was thinking about that, and we were laughing (with her team) after the match that it’s a really similar situation, because we are both 2001.

“I think it’s really nice that we have many younger players coming up and that aren’t scared. And I’m happy that I am one of them, and I am going to continue in that way.”

Simona Halep, Roland-Garros 2020©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Swiatek has given herself two years to establish herself at the highest level and if she doesn’t make the grade, plans on attending university instead.

She is aiming high, inside the top 10 like her good friend Naomi Osaka, but simultaneously is not keen on rushing.

“I always liked to make progress one step after another, because I feel like I can be more consistent in the future, and pressure is a little bit lower,” Swiatek said. “I made it two times already to the fourth round and I feel like that was the perfect opportunity for me to be in a quarter-final.

“But I’m really glad I wasn’t in the final of [Roland-Garros] last year because I feel the pressure would be too big. And I like that I have time to grow up and I think it’s perfect for me doing it one step after another.”

Perfect describes her play this fortnight at her favourite tournament.

Indeed, the defeat of Halep continued her remarkable stint.

She first dispatched last year’s finalist, Marketa Vondrousova, before ousting a doubles Grand Slam winner and one of the trickiest players on the tour, Hsieh Su-Wei.

Then came a victory over Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, prior to her Sunday display over the reigning Wimbledon champion and 2018 champion in Paris.

Swiatek has surrendered a mere 16 games and some key numbers are staggering: 107 winners and only 71 unforced errors.

In each of her four matches she has not given her opponents the time to breathe, jumping out to break leads of either 3-0 or 2-1 ahead of the first sit-down.

“All the credit to her, she played unbelievable today and she was everywhere and she hit all the balls very strong, very powerful,” Halep said.

The 2018 champion was the latest top women’s contender to exit in a span of less than 24 hours. Garbine Muguruza fell to Danielle Collins on Saturday night and then later on Sunday, Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan eliminated Kiki Bertens 6-4, 6-4 to reach her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.

In successive rounds, the 159th-ranked Trevisan — who had openly discussed her battles with an eating disorder — had seen off Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari and now the clay-loving 2016 Roland-Garros semi-finalist, Bertens.

Swiatek and Trevisan meet on Tuesday and for one, the sweet music is set to continue.