Teenager Iga Świątek secured her place in the history books on Saturday when she became the first Polish tennis player to win a senior Grand Slam singles title.
The 19-year-old secured the French Open crown in comprehensive fashion at Roland Garros, defeating American Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1 in the final.
Ranked 54 in the world when the tournament began, the Warsaw native did not drop a single set as she became the lowest-ranked women ever to win in Paris.
Following her sensational run, we managed to speak to one of the game’s rising stars:
Iga, sincere congratulations! What’s the formula for such a once-in-a-lifetime tournament?
Throughout the tournament, I was doing my best not to raise my expectations. Beating the top seed Simona Halep and advancing to the quarter-final was already a great achievement for me, because I’d never played at that stage of a Grand Slam before. From that moment on, I tried not to get too serious about the matches, keeping my expectations as low as possible.
En-route to the final, in the matches with Martina Trevisan and Nadia Podorska, you were considered the favourite, didn’t that bring a lot of pressure?
I guess the pressure was there, but I did my best to focus on the little things – on how to work my legs and position my feet, so the small details without looking at the bigger picture. I know it might be hard to understand, but seriously focusing on the here and now helps a lot, especially when it comes to clearing your head. I was so concentrated on my technique and tactics that I completely forgot about the stress.
Your match against Sofia Kenin on Saturday wasn’t as easy as the result indicates – what was the key to winning?
I started off well, just as in the previous matches. The beginnings are important, because you need to show your determination to the opponent and force your style of tennis. And again, I managed to do that, shaking Sofia’s confidence. Later on Sofia broke back, as I made more mistakes. I didn’t feel as solid on the court as in the previous rounds. But I tried not to get nervous, I didn’t want to show my weaknesses in front of my rival. I noticed that she also made some mistakes and was nervous as well. We wrestled a bit at the end of the set and then I managed to bring back my game.
Your opponent’s medical timeout didn’t slow your momentum.
On the contrary! When Sofia left the court, I got up and started practicing serves, noticing that the crowd obviously enjoyed that, so I thought to myself ‘hey, I can have some fun during the match as well’. I know it might sound weird, but I simply tried to enjoy playing tennis. It helped me relax and ultimately win.
During your two-year career as a professional you’ve achieved the best result ever in Polish tennis. Even Agnieszka Radwańska never won a singles Grand Slam.
Indeed, I did go down in history. But I believe that athletes should be evaluated not for single results, but rather their overall performance. Agnieszka was a great and extremely successful tennis player for a dozen or so years. She was ranked second in the world, won WTA tournaments, while for now I’ve only managed to win one, so we’ll see. In the future, I’d like to focus on playing more consistently and I hope that will bring more good results. It’s not always that easy in women’s tennis. My ambition is to stay among the top WTA players, so I know I’ll have to work hard to achieve that. Will I be the best tennis player in Poland? Let’s wait and see, time will tell.