Tennis Prose



Facing Iga Swiatek

By Scoop Malinowski

The dominant force in women’s tennis today established her supremacy in 2022 by winning six consecutive tournaments and a WTA record 37 matches in a row. This year Iga Swiatek has sustained her sensational form and has won a WTA Tour best 14 matches in straight sets – she has not played a three set match in 2023.

The 21 year old from Poland has won three Grand Slam titles so far, 12 WTA singles titles overall and over $15m in prize money. This week in Indian Wells she will attempt to be the first woman to defend the title since Martina Navratilova in 1991.

The words of Iga… “Tennis is such a complicated sport that you’re never going to know why or what happened. I feel like if you work hard and you give a hundred percent on every match, your chances are going to come. So I’m pretty glad that I can play dominant tennis right now, but I’m really ready for every match and I’m really concentrated and motivated…”

Several WTA players discuss their observations, insights and memories of “Facing Iga”…

Barbora Krejcikova: When you play with Iga, you have to suffer, otherwise you’re not going to win because she’s everywhere. She plays great shots. She likes to play long rallies. So you have to suffer. I don’t mind that…She motivates me a lot and every time I have an opportunity to practice with her or to watch her practice or watch her matches or to see what she’s doing – she’s just amazing, what she was able to do last year and still she has a huge level and she is ahead of all of us. So for me she is a big inspiration, especially she is so young. When I was this young I had no idea what I was doing. I feel like she knows and she goes for it, and she is very dedicated. She is really hard on herself and she really wants to be the best one.

Emma Raducanu: She was ruthless with that way she played. I think I was able to stay competitive for the beginning of the match but ultimately she ground me down and by the end of it. I was just taking way too long to recover from one rally (Emma lost 63 61 at Indian Wells 2023). I feel like physically she is much further ahead than I am at this moment. I think I was able to stay competitive in the beginning of the first set, and then I think the first three games took like over twenty minutes. And we were having some pretty epic rallies, and I actually think my defense got better. But that meant me running… I saw a taste of the level where no. 1 is at physically and how she is at the corners, repetitive, relentless. I just couldn’t take that.

When conditions are heavier and it’s colder at night, and the court is slow, like, she makes a lot of balls, she defends really well, plays heavy. Like, if your ball isn’t penetrating the court going through and fast enough, she likes it, and it sits up, then she has time to kind of manipulate the play and dictate how she wants to. Yeah, the key is to try and get it through the court really, but it’s obviously difficult if, yeah, if it’s not going through.

Coco Gauff (0-6 career vs Iga): No pressure. She’s playing at the top of her game. It’s a challenge. But, to be honest, I think it’s a good matchup just to see where I can maybe improve on. There’s no pressure for me. I’m just going to go out there swinging. Whatever happens happens. You just kind of have to go in believing you can win even when the odds seem stacked against you… I always said I just want to be the best that I can be. It definitely adds pressure when you have these losses, people say things about you, the rest of your life. I have to remind myself I think I have a long career ahead of me, so I can’t really dwell on the outside comments early. I also have to remind myself, just looking at other players, their experience, how they’ve kind of had a bad year one year, then had a great year the next year.

I remember before Iga won Roland Garros, she had lost like a bunch of matches before.

Jess Pegula: I played her at United Cup, conditions are totally different than anywhere else I played her. Obviously maybe I had a little bit of an advantage, they just flew in the day before. Definitely the fastest conditions I have played her. Every other place I’ve played her has been pretty slow (lost all four matches to Iga in 2022). I think that favored me a lot, and I was able to use that to my advantage and play a really super clean match. I think I just was able to execute my game plan probably better than I have previous times… She’s definitely not invincible in my mind.

Elena Rybakina: When you play against No. 1, I think you have really nothing to lose. I knew that I had to be aggressive from the first ball because she’s a great mover, and she defends really well. So I was trying to just attack her from the first ball, and it really worked well… I think we played last year also, and we played many times against each other. I think that for sure the weakest point of mine was physically because she’s, as I said, really good mover. With her experience, she knows when to raise the level.

(When I play Iga in Milan years ago) it was really tough match. I think we played three sets. It was super long. I remember some good rallies. It was on clay, different surface. But I think against Iga it’s always tough battles, no matter if I win or lose. I think our style of the game is naturally we kind of like having these tough battles. Yeah, for sure since she’s No. 1, I think everybody wants to beat her. I guess it’s also not easy for her to be No. 1 because everybody is aiming and really want to beat her.

Kaia Kanepi: She has a great forehand of course. Good serve. She is getting a lot of balls back. It’s also difficult sometimes with her spin to adjust to that during the point.

Sorana Cirstea: It was an amazing match, and usually I don’t say that when I lose a match (lost to Iga 75 36 36 at 2022 Australian Open round of 16). Since then she just took off. She’s been playing amazing. We practiced a lot together in Dubai in the off-season. She’s such a complete player, she moves great, she doesn’t have any flaws in her game. She’s, from my point of view, the best mover we have. She serves well, she returns well. It’s really hard to find a weakness in her game. I like Iga, I think she’s the sweetest girl. She’s such a wonderful role-model.

Maria Sakkari: I have played her many times. Iga has a spinny game. She likes to have more time. She likes to run around with her forehand. Her serve is very good, but it’s more, speed-wise, she places it well. She’s one of the most consistent players and she has a lot of confidence. We played each other last in Doha (2022) and she was the better player that day and the better player in the tournament. I really respect her and I really like her because she’s a lovely girl and she’s very nice and whatever she has achieved she really deserves it… She changed her game from 2021 to 2022. She’s not the Iga that was in 2021. She has been playing very, very aggressive and I was actually very surprised with that change when I played her in Doha.

Anett Kontaveit: I think Iga is one of the best players, she’s still young, she’s improving all the time, she’s had very good results already, so she’s always dangerous. I think her game is very solid everywhere. She has a great forehand, very good backhand, good serve. Yeah, I think she’s a great player. And she’s a nice girl too.

Madison Keys: I think she’s an incredible player. She’s obviously done very well the last few years, she’s had a lot of wins. I think she moves incredibly well. Jessie (Pegula) and I were actually talking about that in the middle of our doubles match. Her ability to slide into everything is incredible. She moves really well. She defends really well. She’s very good at immediately taking advantage of any situation. I think she’s very good, and there’s a reason she’s winning matches that she’s winning.

Bianca Andreescu: I know that my game was definitely going to level up to hers. I knew she was going to play well but I didn’t know she was going to play that well, but that’s what you have to expect from the World No.1. She literally does not miss. You could hit any shot in the world and she literally will not miss. She’ll find a way to get to it, she’ll put it where she exactly wants it.

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  • catherine · March 15, 2023 at 7:33 am

    From Raducanu after being bounced by Swiatek:

    “Now it’s just about consistent work to physically get to where I want to be. I saw a taste of the level where No 1 is at physically and how she is at the corners, repetitive, relentless. I just couldn’t take that.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 15, 2023 at 9:12 am

    Catherine, Raducanu is now 0-3 career vs Iga, 64 64 last year in Stuttgart and the 60 61 annihilation at Wimbledon juniors, so it’s obviously a puzzle young Emma has not yet figured out.

  • catherine · March 15, 2023 at 11:38 am

    Coco’s comment was all about herself. Apparently she has nothing to say about Swiatek’s game at all, except that she lost a few matches before RG. Really.

    In contrast other players had several interesting observations. I liked Bianca’s.

  • catherine · March 15, 2023 at 11:42 am

    Scoop – ‘repetitive, relentless. I just couldn’t take that.’

    Emma’s said what many others must be feeling.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 15, 2023 at 11:54 am

    Catherine, in doing Facing books and articles I’ve learned WTA players don’t like to give too much credit to players that beat them, very vague answers, very careful responses. Even Emma’s last night after losing to Iga was essentially, “I was even with her but then because she’s in better fitness I just got tired and she beat me.” Very rare that you get a verbal surrender like I remember Hingis essentially saying after another loss to Davenport, “I just can’t beat her, she hits too hard and just blasts me off the court.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 15, 2023 at 11:56 am

    Catherine, “ruthless” was an interesting choice of word by Emma. Almost portrays herself as a victim of a vicious tennis killing machine.

  • catherine · March 16, 2023 at 6:57 am

    Scoop – my quote from Emma was ‘relentless’ rather than ‘ruthless’ which I suspect is what she meant – the quality in Iga’s game that gives her opponent no rest. Steffi similar.

    Sabalenka handed Gauff a thrashing ending in 6-0. I’ve never been a fan of Coco’s but it’s nothing personal. Just believe the early hype did her no favours and there are holes in her game which no coach seems to be addressing. Does she even have a coach now ?

    My point about her comment re Iga seems pertinent. Coco’s too wrapped in herself.

    Saba and her team have achieved a miracle with her serve. No dfs. And she seems much happier. Maybe it’s the BF.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 16, 2023 at 9:22 am

    Catherine, Iga is a wrecking machine, ruthless is a word that is very rarely said to describe women’s tennis, Emma gave Iga a giant compliment by saying it. Gauff is overrated. The establishment went crazy bonkers by overhyping her initial comeback matches, replaying them over and over and over like she was already Serena 2. ESPN and Tennis Channel were guilty of that. Gauff had some good memorable early wins which the US tennis media turned into Cocomania hysteria. She has not lived up to the hype and expectations. Maybe the media orgasm stunted her or not, hard to say. Her coach now are her parents, she said this in a press conference this week. Former Tommy Paul and Kozlov coach Diego Moyano also travels with the family but Coco did not call him her coach. Which suggests he is an associate coach and that the parents want ALL the credit when Coco makes her breakthrough and finally wins her first Grand Slam. Another questionable call. Why not get a real coach?

  • catherine · March 18, 2023 at 2:12 am

    Back to the drawing board Iga – flattened by Rybakina. Can she solve this one ? It’ll be interesting to see. Women’s tennis needs some rivalries with a bit of bite.

    All Swiatek’s recent losses have been in straight sets. Not even close.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 18, 2023 at 7:46 am

    Catherine, Rybakina is Iga’s kryptonite. It reminds me of Hingis getting dominated and blown out by Davenport’s power. Rybakina is the ultimate power wrecking machine and she appears to get extra inspired to slay Iga. The only way Graf could beat Seles was Gunther Parche, maybe Iga has no chance to overcome Rybakina.

  • catherine · March 18, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Comment from Iga:

    “Honestly I feel like it’s still more me and kind of my mistakes.”

    She’s saying I suppose that Rybakina is difficult but not impossible and there’s work to be done. Should be a duel of the mind.

  • catherine · March 18, 2023 at 10:40 am

    I found this article interesting, particularly as I wasn’t following tennis for some of the time covered here.

    Not many articles around that deal with the women’s game in this kind of detail.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 18, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    Catherine no top player ever publicly or even privately admits to being inferior to another, just that one time Hingis did to Davenport. Iga is a proud great champion, she will not surrender to Rybakina. Rybakina’s power looks the most devastating ever, beyond Seles and Davenport. Iga is clever though and she will figure it out.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 18, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    Catherine, link doesn’t work.

  • catherine · March 18, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    Scoop – sorry, but not surprised. Popcorn is WordPress and I’ve had problems there in the past. Now I’m blocked for some reason.

    (The article is on the website if you, or anyone else wants to read it.)

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 19, 2023 at 11:54 am

    The tennis media hype adoration for Carlos is in full gear now. All the key players all singing the same chorus of love for Carlos. Wonder why they didn’t give 19 yr old Djokovic the same equal treatment.

  • catherine · March 20, 2023 at 6:46 am

    Maybe it’s because Carlos is a pretty good player and there are now quite a few years since Djoko was 19. Memories fade.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 8:25 am

    Catherine,it illustrates the difference of how the media fawningly portrays and worships Carlos but always was adversarial vs Djokovic. And that comes from the higher command.

  • mikuck · March 20, 2023 at 11:25 am

  • mikuck · March 20, 2023 at 11:38 am

    Alcatraz is a monster, he can finish the Goat. This kid is one in a billion, so dynamic, can play all the shots, already knocked out Parera e Nole one time back to back. Great years ahead of us.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 11:48 am

    Thanks Mikuck, I like this article by Oscar Wood. Iga’s stranglehold on the WTA is now suddenly in jeopardy. Two onesided losses in a row to Rybakina 64 64 62 62 will be tough to overcome. She has lost the mental edge.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 11:52 am

    Mikuck; Alcaraz is the clear heir apparent to the Fedalkovic reign. His game seems to possess the best qualities of each Roger, Rafa and Novak. He also has the backing and full approval of the establishment and media and two very very powerful sponsors in Nike and Babolat. The stage is set for him to dominate and destroy. But the best laid plans and schemes do tend to go awry. Medvedev playing 20 ft behind the baseline was disappointing to see.

  • catherine · March 20, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    Miami: worst 1st R draw in history: Raducanu v Andreescu.

    Two kind-of Rumanians, although Emma seems to be reluctant to join her adopted country’s team in the BJK Cup. She’ll catch it on social media….

    (mikuck – thanks for correction)

    Women’s final IW not fascinating because these two play the same type of game overall. But Miami might tell us more.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Emma vs Biba should be fireworks and maybe some drama. Wonder if they like each other? A final with two friends with same play style isn’t the most appealing matchup but those two may be the two best players in the world right now, both having seemingly solved the Iga puzzle.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    In case you didn’t know, Marcelo Rios beat Alex Corretja 76 36 10-7 in an exhibition in Chile on Friday night. Good level fun match to see.

  • catherine · March 20, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    Iga and Shelton have both signed up with Federer’s clothing company On. Iga’s dress (black) looked good. Includes shoes as well.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 20, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    Catherine, yes I did a short announcement of this surprise move by ON to grab two of the biggest young stars in the game today. Curious that both players ended their previous contracts in the same week at IW. Like to hear the whole story about this double deal.

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