October 7, 2020
Hands up who predicted a Roland Garros semi-final between Iga Swiatek and Nadia Podoroska?
Don’t worry. No one in the entire world came up with that prediction but who’s complaining?
It’s the glorious unpredictability of women’s tennis that makes it so fascinating.
We’ll have an unknown Grand Slam finalist. We’ll also have a brand new French Open winner.
Swiatek is trying not to look at social media or the flood of congratulatory messages from Polish dignitaries and fans.
The modest 19-year-old doesn’t want the enormity of her achievement so far to go to her head, or the growing clamour back in her native Poland to distract her for now.
‘I’ll thank them later,’ she said wisely, sensing a genuine need to stay in the moment and a real chance to make the final.
Podoroska, her next opponent, is a powerful and determined player from Argentina.
She’s a qualifier who just beat the third seed Elina Svitolina, one of the game’s biggest stars.
No qualifier has ever reached the Roland Garros semi-finals before.
Ranked 131 in the world, Podoroska can hardly believe her luck. ‘I can’t speak,’ she said later. ‘I don’t want to wake up.’
But no such dream can be realised without spectacular strokeplay and a fierce fighting spirit.
Podoroska believed in herself more in the big moments than Svitolina, the heavy favourite who tightened yet again with so much at stake.
The Ukrainian’s big chance to win a Grand Slam for the first time has gone.
It’s sad for the star of so many fun social media moments with her boyfriend Gael Monfils.
She had said she was playing for both of them after Monfils was knocked out early at his home Slam. But the title just wasnt to be.
Could the crown now be destined for Poland?
Swiatek in full flow is seemingly unstoppable, though Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin might yet have something to say about that.
Strange that in the early stages of Swiatek’s match against Martina Trevisan we thought she was in trouble.
Had all the pressure that came with her seemingly superhuman performance against Simona Halep caught up with her?
Swiatek had already played her perfect match – because that’s what the win against Halep was.
No one gets to play like that twice in succession. And sure enough, Iga was soon struggling with a swirling wind and 3-1 down.
‘I just needed three games to adapt to the conditions,’ she explained later.
Watch out any opponent when Swiatek starts to feel comfortable.
There’s a devastating ease to Iga’s game when she gets going.
The sweetness of the timing and the depth to her shots becomes too hot to handle.
Swiatek lost just one game of the next twelve to triumph 6-3, 6-1.
At first sight, you might not think the slim teenager would be capable of such utter sporting domination.
But she generates such incredible force. And some of it probably comes from having a father who is a former Olympic rower.
Swiatek is just learning how to tap into that force with consistency. The big stage and tough conditions don’t seem to trouble her for long.
Could we see a Swiatek v Kenin final? And ultimately a new Polish princess of tennis?
We all know how dangerous it would be to make any firm predicitons in the world of women’s tennis.
Besides, Kenin still has to beat Petra Kvitova to hold up her end of the bargain.
We’ll make one prediction, however.
We reckon Swiatek will spark a mini Polish invasion of Wimbledon 2021. Her growing legion of patriotic supporters will want to be there.
The big Polish community in London is ready to make its presence felt at SW19. It’ll add to the marvellous atmosphere at the All England Club.
Oh, and another little glimpse into the future. That Plan B Swiatek had, the one where she goes to university in the next year or two?
Iga might just have to put that plan on hold. Tennis has found a new star. And Swiatek is learning to like it.