Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: Teenager Iga Swiatek wins French Open without dropping a set
Iga Swiatek became the first Polish player, male or female, to win a grand slam singles title when she lifted the Suzanne Lenglen trophy in Paris.
Editor's Note: It's that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports' all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost's latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.
Iga Swiatek won her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open this year. That in itself isn't much of a feat until you go into the finer details.
Only 19, Swiatek became the first Polish player, male or female, to win a major singles title. Ranked 54th coming into it, she became the lowest-ranked woman to win in Paris in the Open Era. She became the youngest winner at Roland Garros since Monica Seles in 1992 and first teenager since Iva Majoli in 1997. This was not just her first major, but her first title at the top level. Her previous best had been the final in Lugano in 2019.
And to top it all off, she went seven matches without dropping a set. She lost mere 28 games in those seven matches. Looking deeper into those seven matches, there are wins over former champion Simona Halep (6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round) and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (6-4, 6-1 in the final) as the highlights. The Halep win coming a year on from losing 1 and 0 at the same. Not so surprisingly, she won the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award.
Her success in Paris heralded the concept of players working with psychologists to help their career. Coached by Piotr Sierzputowski, Swiatek turned to Daria Abramowicz to keep her focused. She would take court wearing headphones and routinely listen "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N'Roses. She also acknowledged that if she wanted to go in aggressively, she would play Thunderstruck by AC/DC. Reminder: She's just 19.
If one expected Swiatek to show nerves in the final, including Kenin, there were none. She took eight minutes to go 3-0 up. If that wasn't a strong advertisement of her abilities and Abramowicz's training, the Pole remained resolute even as Kenin suffered physical issues and needed lengthy medical timeout in the second set. Six games in a row, 24 of the last 30 points for a first major title. Her first Slam success in just the seventh appearance.
When the lights go out... This is how happy we were right after the ceremony. Thank you guys for the best support a player could get. And for providing me daily dose of fun. #teamswiatek #rg2020 pic.twitter.com/iZMMMlC7SE
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 13, 2020
It's hard to describe how special this day is for me. It's so strange to achieve something that seemed so distant... But yup... It's here - I'm a grand slam champion (whaaat?). Thank you @SofiaKenin for this final. I wish you all the best. #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/ktIShQZLnj
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 10, 2020
Now ranked 17th in the world, Swiatek is looking to 2021 and hoping to stay consistent. If records of previous WTA Most Improved Player of the Year awardees were to be analysed, 39 of last 41 would reach the top-10 at some point.
“I know my game isn't developed perfectly,” Swiatek said after the win. “Also I think the biggest change for me is going to be consistent. I think this is what women's tennis is struggling with. That's why we have so many new Grand Slam winners because we are not, like, as consistent as Rafa (Nadal), Roger (Federer), and Novak (Djokovic). That's why my goal is going to be consistent. It's going to be really hard to achieve that.”
P.S. (If you're still struggling with her name, here you go.)
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