By Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent
WARSAW–Iga Świątek made Polish tennis history at this year’s French Open when she captured the singles Grand Slam title at Paris’ renowned red-clay Roland Garros courts. The 19-year-old, who has been around tennis courts since she was four, won in grand style without losing a single set.
Pitted in the final leg of grueling two-week eliminations against Russian-born American Sofia Kenin, 21, Iga dominated the match from the start after winning three consecutive games. Her rival started catching up but the Pole quickly rebounded, retained the lead and won 6:4. In the second round, Kenin won the first game, but that only spurred Iga into action, winning 6:1.
After claiming victory, the former Wimbledon junior champion made her way into the stands to celebrate with her team. Well-wishers included her father Tomasz Świątek, a former Olympic rower, her coach Piotr Sierzputowski and sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz.
At a press conference the following day, Iga said her dad had inspired her hard work and determination and taught her to focus on her game rather than mulling possible future victories. Fielding questions from reporters on a Paris rooftop against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Iga said the knowledge that all of Poland was rooting for her was largely responsible for her success.
Clad in a colorful, striped bathrobe, Iga told the press conference that she was shocked and overwhelmed by the number of congratulatory messages with which she had been bombarded by world tennis greats, experts, and countless ordinary fans. She said she didn’t plan to enter any more tournaments this year but did not want to stop training. “We will be preparing for next season, because, after all, popularity is one thing, but work is necessary,” she explained.
The Polish tennis prodigy, who had been world number 54, moved into the 17th slot following her French Open success. She left Paris nearly $1.9 million richer and can add that prize money to the $1.1 million she had won on the courts prior to Roland Garros. But Iga still has a long way to go to match the more than $27 million won by her legendary predecessor Agnieszka Radwańska over a 15-year-career ending in 2018.
Radwańska, however, never won the prestigious French Open and in 2012 was defeated in the Grand Slam final at Wimbledon by America’s Serena Williams. Back in the 1930s, Jadwiga Jędrzejowska had put Poland on the world tennis map,