Consistency the end goal: Swiatek

Iga Swiatek celebrates with the Suzanne Lenglen trophy after beating Sofia Kenin of the US.
Iga Swiatek celebrates with the Suzanne Lenglen trophy after beating Sofia Kenin of the US.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • Iga Swiatek called her French Open title "a life-changing experience" and said her biggest challenge would be to try and match the consistency of her hero, Roland Garros' record champion Rafael Nadal.

The 19-year-old became Poland's first Grand Slam singles champion with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Sofia Kenin on Saturday, bettering the run of Jadwiga Jedrzejowska - the previous standout Polish player with three Major final appearances, including finishing runner-up at Roland Garros in 1939.

"I wasn't expecting to win this trophy. It's obviously amazing for me," she said. "It's, like, a life-changing experience."

Swiatek, who entered the tournament ranked No. 54, is the lowest-ranked player in the modern era to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup - her first title of any sort at Tour level.

She will rise to a career high of 17th today after becoming the youngest women's French Open winner since an 18-year-old Monica Seles in 1992.

Her style has been likened by three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander to that of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who along with Nadal and Roger Federer have combined to win 57 Grand Slam titles.

"Really, I feel like I can progress in most of the things because I'm only 19. I know my game isn't developed perfectly," said Swiatek.

"Also, I think the biggest change for me is going to be to be consistent. I think this is what women's tennis is struggling with.

"That's why we have so many new Slam winners because we're not as consistent as Rafa, Roger, and Novak. That's why my goal is to be consistent. It's going to be really hard to achieve that."

 
 
 

Recent first-time Major champions including Australian Open winner Kenin, 21, Bianca Andreescu, 20, Ashleigh Barty, 23 when she won the French Open last year, have seen the average age of the last eight Slam champions drop to 21.5 years. In contrast, the previous eight winners averaged 27.4.

Swiatek was only the second Polish woman to reach a Slam final in the Open era after Agnieszka Radwanska, but she dismissed comparisons with the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up, who retired in 2018.

"I just feel like I kind of made history. But I still think Radwanska, she achieved a lot because she played on the WTA for, I don't know, 12 years. I don't even know the number," she said. "I know there's going to be a lot of people who are going to compare us.

"But I think I have to be really consistent for the next couple years for everybody to name me the best player in Poland because still I have a lot to do. Still I think that's kind of her place, you know."

She was congratulated by Poland President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and football star Robert Lewandowski. Swiatek is expecting a hearty welcome on her return home.

"I know it's going to be crazy. I think I'm going to get used to that, it's not going to be a problem for me," she added. "I'm going to be happy and proud."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2020, with the headline 'Consistency the end goal: Swiatek'. Print Edition | Subscribe