October 16, 2020
Wimbledon helped Iga Swiatek win Roland Garros last week. Can Roland Garros help her win Wimbledon 2021?
It’s more than possible. Just take a look at the last couple of years in Swiatek’s extraordinary life.
They might help us to catch a glimpse of Swiatek’s future.
A British coach and former player has been an important factor in Iga’s stunning success story.
Nick Brown struck up a rapport with the promising Pole and her team at Junior Roland Garros two years ago.
They agreed to work together in the build-up to Junior Wimbledon a few weeks later.
Like many young players brought up on clay, Swiatek was initially uncomfortable about risking life and limb on grass.
Her mindset wasn’t helped by a tough draw against world number one Whitney Osuigwe at Junior Wimbledon 2018. Ominously, Iga lost the first set they played.
Against the odds, however, the underdog came through in three. She began to win more matches.
Cambridge-based Brown, who once took down Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon, was starting to work his magic.
But Swiatek still wasn’t completely confident on the grassy lawns of the All England Club.
‘I hate grass, I just don’t like playing on it,’ she kept telling Brown.
And yet she kept winning. She beat our own rising star, Emma Raducanu 6-0, 6-1 in the quarter-final.
She began to think she could do anything, even on an unfamiliar surface.
In the Junior Wimbledon final, Swiatek defeated Swiss hope Leonie Kung 6-4, 6-2 in just 73 minutes.
As at Roland Garros a few days ago, she covered her mouth with a hand when she won at Wimbledon.
Just as in Paris, she talked about the thrill of building a rapport with the crowd, too.
‘I feel like my goal is to entertain,’ she told her audience the All England Club. ‘To make the show, to make people clap, to enjoy the game.’
She certainly managed to please the crowd at Wimbledon, with 33 winners in that emphatic final.
‘How do you like grass now?’ Brown asked, afterwards, smiling.
‘Oh, I love it,’ Swiatek said quite genuinely.
And now Wimbledon 2021 beckons the new star of our sport.
When she returns to Wimbledon, it will be as a Grand Slam champion. This has been a meteoric rise.
At the start of the recent fortnight at Roland Garros, not even Iga thought she could win the tournament.
But she has a wonderful sports psychologist, Daria Abramovicz, who made her feel almost invincible.
And her coach, Piotr Sierzputowski, isn’t the possessive type. That’s why Swiatek will be back to see Brown in England next month.
In Paris, as she began to ride the wave of success, Iga was reminded of Wimbledon.
She explained: ‘I think back then, during that week, I almost felt the same as here in Paris. I just felt like I could do anything.
‘Now I just want to have that feeling at every tournament and be consistent.’
First she must deal with the crazy world of newfound celebrity in Poland.
But when Swiatek escapes to England next month, it will be back down to business.
Brown knows she will put in the work on the court and cope with the pressures off it.
He revealed: ‘She has an old head on young shoulders, a bit like Martina Hingis did.
‘But you can’t get her off court. She wants to stay until she gets it.’
Iga isn’t ashamed to admit that she is hungry to acquire all the weaponry necessary to win more titles.
And Wimbledon 2018, she firmly believes, will stand her in good stead for what is to come.
Swiatek revealed: ‘I think for my whole career, that Junior Wimbledon taught me a lot, the whole experience.
‘I know that I can win big tournaments now. I always wanted to win all four Grand Slams and to have an Olympic medal, and I always thought of it as a dream.
‘But now, after I won the French Open, it has stopped being so distant for me.’
Brown, now 59, believes a Wimbledon women’s singles title is within her grasp.
‘I think she has the game to win Wimbledon,’ he confirmed. The statistics bear that out, too. Swiatek won 51 of 66 points at the net in France.
And when you have a 77 per cent success rate in what is generally regarded as a grass-court battle zone, you know you’re made of the right stuff for Wimbledon.
So when Iga arrives at Wimbledon 2021, we will probably want to give her some extra British support and affection.
After all, much of her big-time success and lasting self-belief was created here in England.
We wish her plenty more!