Wilander: Title defence won't faze 'unbeatable' Swiatek

Three-time champion says Polish teenager has everything required to win back-to-back in Paris

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Simon Cambers

Mats Wilander believes Iga Swiatek has everything in place, technically and emotionally, to handle the unique challenge of defending the Roland-Garros title.

And the Swede, who knows a bit about trying to defend in Paris having won three times, in 1982, 1985 and 1988, said the Pole is “unbeatable” when she’s on her game.

Swiatek, who turns 20 on Monday, plays her good friend Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in round one and is the No.8 seed for this year’s event, less than eight months after she stunned the tennis world by winning Roland-Garros, without dropping a set.

Wilander thinks she is well capable of succeeding where he fell just short, by winning back to back titles in Paris.

“I think that with her style, she's unbeatable,” Wilander told rolandgarros.com

“When she plays well, she's unbeatable. She has every shot, she plays aggressive, she's not afraid of coming forward. She serves well, she's got a good second serve."

Swiatek's work with a sports psychologist has been well documented, a partnership Wilander felt would only help.

“I feel like she's not out there (only) to win tournaments necessarily, but it doesn't faze her, really,” he said. “She just has this (attitude): ‘I'm going to be a great player, I'm completely grounded in my life and grounded on the court. I take risks and sometimes it doesn't work but I have the game to win these tournaments'.”

Last year’s title was Swiatek’s first singles title of any kind at the professional level, a remarkable feat but one she has backed up in style, winning in Adelaide at the start of this year and breaking into the world's top 10 after winning the title in Rome earlier this month.

In 1983, having won so brilliantly the previous year, Wilander felt like he was going to win the title again, only to fall short in the final against Frenchman Yannick Noah.

“The confidence that I got from winning in '82 carried me on clay all the way through the next season and then coming in [to Roland-Garros], I thought there is no chance that I am losing to Noah in the final,” he said.

“I'd won in Monte Carlo and Lisbon in '83 on clay. And so it was no problem at all thinking that I can defend my title. And then obviously Yannick played some kind of weird tactical games with my mind and the French crowd [got involved]... I was overwhelmed by the occasion.”

Wilander, who will again work as an expert commentator for Eurosport throughout Roland-Garros, said his only fear for Swiatek was if she became upset when things did not go her way early on.

“I think for her it's enough [for her confidence] that she won Rome,” he said, adding that because serving is increasingly important in the women’s game, being caught cold is always a fear.

“When the women are serving as good as they are now, you can be down 6-3, 2-0 and a break down in 45 minutes and you haven't put a foot wrong,” he said. “That didn't happen with Steffi Graf or Chrissie Evert, they never had to worry about that kind of stuff. But today you do, as a woman, so there's some luck involved.

“I haven't seen enough of her hating to lose, meaning if she comes out and plays a [bad] match, and she doesn't ball strike well, I haven't seen enough of her being able to sort of say: ‘OK, you know what, I'm not frickin' losing this match.' So that could be an [issue]. But that comes with age, I think.”