Swiatek cements rapid rise to top with US Open crown

·3 min read

Iga Swiatek's victory at the US Open on Saturday marked the latest milestone on a rapid ascent through the ranks of women's tennis to the pinnacle of her sport.

The 21-year-old from Poland cemented her status as world number one after becoming the first woman in six years to win two Grand Slam titles in a season, her US Open crown following her second French Open title at Roland Garros in June.

Swiatek's third career Grand Slam singles title is confirmation of a talent that has been evident since she first picked up a tennis racquet at the encouragement of her father, a former rower who competed at the 1988 Olympics for Poland.

Jerzy Rozek, a neighbour of the Swiatek family in their village of Raszyn just outside of Warsaw, remembers the tennis star as a "very good, calm kid" who rapidly became devoted to her sport.

"You could see how it drew her in. And she made progress. She really got into tennis and demonstrated commitment – because after all it's work, work, work," Rozek told AFP.

"Her dad drove her to school and then tennis practice, and now we're seeing the results."

Swiatek flourished as a junior, winning back-to-back titles as a 13-year-old on the ITF circuit in 2015 before reaching the last eight at the junior French Open the following year.

In 2018, she won her first junior Grand Slam, winning Wimbledon as an unseeded player after upsetting the top seed in the first round.

In her first season on the WTA Tour in 2019, Swiatek reached the second round of the Australian Open before making her first WTA Tour final in Lugano at the age of 17.

- Rising force -

Further evidence of her status as a rising force came at the French Open, where the teenager reached the fourth round before being routed 6-1, 6-0 by defending champion Simona Halep.

Swiatek would avenge that loss in spectacular fashion at the pandemic-rescheduled French Open in late 2020, however, dropping just three games to Halep in a 6-1, 6-2 win before going on to win her maiden Grand Slam title.

That tournament marked a coming-of-age of sorts for Swiatek, who typically would arrive on court wearing headphones listening to the likes of Guns N'Roses and AC/DC to pump her up for the occasion.

Two more singles titles followed at Adelaide and Rome in 2021, but Swiatek had a frustrating season in Grand Slams, reaching just one quarter-final, at the French Open.

Swiatek came roaring back to the fore this season, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open before embarking on a remarkable 37-match winning streak that included tournament victories at Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome before she bagged her second French Open crown in June.

That win streak and the shock retirement of world number one Ashleigh Barty propelled her to the top of the rankings.

A modest start to the US hardcourt swing saw her exit Cincinnati and Toronto in the last 16.

However Swiatek shrugged off those defeats in New York on her way to the title.

A sign of her increasing mental resilience came in a testing semi-final against Aryna Sabalenka, where she recovered from 4-2 in the third set to reach the final.

Swiatek says her work with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz has made her a mentally tougher competitor.

"Earlier in my career I felt like my emotions kind of were taking over and I was panicking a little bit when I was losing," Swiatek said this week.

"Now it's just easier for me to actually logically think what I can change."