Dominant Iga Swiatek is looking unstoppable as she extends winning run to 30 matches

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Iga Swiatek pumps her fist in celebration after securing her place in the third round of the French Open - GETTY IMAGES
Iga Swiatek pumps her fist in celebration after securing her place in the third round of the French Open - GETTY IMAGES

World No 1 Iga Swiatek became only the fourth woman this century to record 30 straight victories as she breezed into the third round at the French Open. The question is: can anybody end her streak?

Her opponent on Thursday, Alison Riske - who has scalps including Ashleigh Barty to her name - celebrated animatedly when she claimed her first of just two games in the entire match. That reaction was a measure of the gulf between Swiatek and the rest of the pack. And the main factor setting her apart is her ruthless mindset.

On Thursday, she was locked in from the outset of her 6-0 6-2 victory. Even during the warm-up, she was fist-pumping after finding the line on her serve. The first set arrived in just 22 minutes, with a massive differential of 24 points won to only seven lost. She thwacked bullet returns at her opponent, expertly constructed winning points and approached the net with unshakeable confidence. Here is a woman with blinkers on, her focus unbroken since her last loss back in February.

“On the eve of the tournament, I saw Iga practising with Paula Badosa,” said Nick Brown, the British coach who guided Swiatek through her successful junior Wimbledon campaign in 2018. “Normally people just practise at 80 per cent but this was furiously competitive. They were trying to beat each other up. The last woman I saw prepare for a major like that was Steffi Graf, 30 years ago. It just shows where Iga’s mentality is at: she is right on it every day.”

Swiatek is a rarity on the tour in that she travels full-time with sport psychologist Daria Abramowicz. She has credited their partnership with taking her mental game to the next level.

She is not a robot, far from it in fact. She admits to crying weekly and has a reputation for offering quirky answers during interviews. On Thursday, she shared her love of "things that are symmetrical". It is why she loves a tennis court's dimensions, she explained, why she tries to hit an equal number of forehands and backhands during practice, and why a trip to the impeccably designed Versailles gardens on her day off this week appealed so much. "Oh, my God, it was perfect," she gushed.

 Iga Swiatek of Poland plays against Alison Riske (not seen) of USA in the womenâs second round match at the French Open tennis tournament, Roland âGarros, Paris, France on May 26, 2022 - Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Iga Swiatek of Poland plays against Alison Riske (not seen) of USA in the womenâs second round match at the French Open tennis tournament, Roland âGarros, Paris, France on May 26, 2022 - Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Her second-round match's scoreline was a mirror image of her first round - 6-2 6-0 - and continued the flawless form that has defined her phenomenal streak. She has won five straight tournaments, conceding only five sets in total, and only once coming close to losing a match.

Her rise has come as no surprise to compatriot and former player Wojtek Fibak, a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros in 1977 and 1980. Back in 2019, when Swiatek was just 17 and lost 6-0 6-1 to Simona Halep here, Fibak tried to tell those around him what a special talent they were watching. "There was a lot of talk in the Polish media about how far away she was," he says. "I said, 'You guys don’t realise it, this is the next Serena Williams, she will dominate tennis'. She won Roland Garros the next year."

If she wins her second title in Paris a week on Saturday, she will overtake two famous winning streaks - 32 matches by Justine Henin, 34 by Serena Williams - and equal Venus Williams's 35-match unbeaten run, which remains the longest since 2000. The stranglehold she has on the tour is all the more astounding when you consider that she was only thrust into the world No 1 spot by Barty's shock retirement. That sort of pressure would prompt a wobble from most 20 year-olds, but Swiatek is a class apart.

"I feel like I'm using my new position to put more pressure on my opponents," she said. "I'm pretty happy that I could convert it to a way that is really helpful. I feel like my confidence is better."

Last December, she brought in new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski, who used to coach former world No 2 Agnieszka Radwanska. In his new role at the wheel of the Swiatek juggernaut, Wiktorowski convinced her to take a break and skip the Madrid Open earlier this month. "She wanted to play but it was a very smart decision," Fibak says. "Maybe Thomas is a bit more serious, a bit more disciplined. The whole team is very professional, like the Big Three men."

Without Barty, it is tough to see someone who can consistently challenge Swiatek. Fibak thinks Danielle Collins, Ons Jabeur and Jelena Ostapenko - the last woman to beat her - are the only players who entered the draw in Paris with the game to disrupt her rhythm and attack her serve. But all three have already been knocked out.

With seeded players falling all around her, Swiatek's path to her second major is clearing every day.

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