LONDON (Reuters) – Poland’s Iga Swiatek makes no secret of her use of sports psychology and may need all her powers of positive thinking to plot her way to the Wimbledon title.
The 21-year-old world number one appears to be a huge favourite going into the tournament — courtesy of a 35-match winning sequence that began in Qatar in February.
She was simply unstoppable on the Roland Garros clay, dropping one set as she claimed a second French Open title in three years, having free-wheeled her way to the 2020 title when she became the youngest French Open champion for 28 years.
But Wimbledon presents an entirely different challenge for a player whose nine career WTA titles have been won on clay and hard courts and who admits grass is tricky.
Factor in too that Swiatek has not played a competitive match since beating Coco Gauff in the Paris final, skipping all the Wimbledon tune-up events, and the short odds on her achieving Wimbledon glory on July 9 might be a little deceptive.
As a former Wimbledon junior champion, Swiatek will certainly not be thrown by the switch from clay to slick turf and a run to last year’s fourth round will offer encouragement.
She will also have sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz in her camp — a key component in Swiatek’s stunning rise.
Abramowicz describes Swiatek’s ability to process her thoughts in the heat of battle as ‘unique’ — and it is that clear thinking and ability to adapt that she will need over the next fortnight as different questions are posed.
“Iga really likes and needs to understand the process and a lot of mechanisms and keys on how to achieve a high-quality performance, how to manage stress,” Abramowicz once told Reuters. “She is very open minded which is actually another great quality of hers.”
Those not familiar with seeing Swiatek close up can expect to see her sliding on Wimbledon’s grass, as she does on the clay. They can also look forward to a powerful service return that enables her to take command of rallies.
Swiatek’s first serve is also a weapon while her second delivery uses slice and topspin to keep rivals guessing.
Her variety, too, is another example of a tennis mind always thinking about new solutions — whether it be a drop shot played from way behind the baseline or a cunning angle.
There are few obvious weaknesses in the Swiatek game, but she will be fully aware that many grasscourt warriors lurk in the draw — the likes of seven-time champion Serena Williams, twice holder Petra Kvitova and 2018 winner Angelique Kerber.
Swiatek will need to be at her absolute best if she is to go one better than Poland’s runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska in 2012 and become the country’s first Wimbledon singles champion.
“I think definitely Iga is the favourite,” American great Chris Evert said in a conference call with ESPN.
“But I think when you haven’t played a grass court tournament coming into Wimbledon, again you don’t really have that time to really get used to the grass. I think that takes away a little bit of the invincibility, the domination.
“I wouldn’t say she’s dominant, but she is the favourite.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)