Swiatek seeks to dominate Wimbledon

Polish world number one may just be the star to lead women’s tennis into new era


REUTERS June 23, 2022

LONDON:

A key element in the appeal of any sport is the presence of a dominant figure -- a benchmark for the rest to aspire to -- and in that respect women's tennis has been blessed to have Serena Williams as its figurehead.

But with the American in her 41st year and back at Wimbledon for a potential farewell after a year out, the worry has been whether any player can fill her shoes.

As the All England Club prepares to open its gates, Poland's Iga Swiatek looks as though she might just be the one to lead the women's game into the a new era.

Domination can only really be measured over a sustained period and it is doubtful anyone will get close to the kind of statistics compiled by Williams.

Between 2010 and 2019, according to the WTA, she won 89.3% of her matches, won 37 titles and spent 196 weeks as world number one -- more than the next two combined -- won 12 of her 23 Grand Slam titles and reached the finals of 19 of the 33 major tournaments she entered during that period.

Japan's Naomi Osaka, who is skipping Wimbledon, threatened to seize control with four Grand Slam titles in a little over three years, but has since slipped back into the pack as she wrestles with the pressure of stardom.

So those predicting that Swiatek is indeed the real deal might want to reflect on the pitfalls that await her in a sport in which the depth of talent has perhaps never been greater.

But her numbers heading into Wimbledon are mind-boggling.

When the 21-year-old beat American teenager Coco Gauff to win her second French Open title earlier this month it took her winning streak to 35 matches, equalling the 21st Century record of Venus Williams, although still far from Martina Navratilova's astonishing 74-match streak in 1984.

Swiatek took over as world number one in April after Ash Barty, the reigning Wimbledon champion, surprisingly retired from the sport and on the evidence so far, the Pole appears comfortable in the role.

Her multifaceted game style and ability to outwit opponents with versatile tactics means she excels on all surfaces, although grass could present one of her biggest challenges.

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