Score don’t lie. Even the most casual fan can pull up the BNP Paribas Open mobile app, swipe over to women’s singles draw, and find out what’s true in a heartbeat.
Iga Swiatek is the most dominant force that women’s tennis has seen in quite some time.
Riding a ten-match BNP Paribas Open winning streak, the Polish juggernaut has won her last 16 sets on the gritty hard courts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
At other venues, it’s more of the same. Last year, when Swiatek was en route to her maiden title in the California desert, she was also in the early stages of a 37-match winning streak that would continue in Europe, where she was eventually crowned champion at Roland Garros in Paris, raising the fabled Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time.
Change the surface, change the continent, change the opponent. Nothing seems to change the fact that the court is tilted in the 21-year-old’s favor.
After playing brilliantly against Swiatek in the third round and still coming up empty, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu summed up the quandary.
“Iga’s Iga right now – she’s on some trip,” she said after falling 6-3, 7-6(1) to the defending champ.
Andreescu, a force to be reckoned with herself, was asked to elaborate.
“She literally does not miss,” the Canadian said. “You could hit any shot in the world and she literally will not miss, she’ll find a way to get to it, to put it exactly where she wants it. That’s what she was doing, she was returning pretty well, serving pretty well – she just has a good overall game.”
Some – let’s be honest, all – of her opponents no doubt find it frustrating to face Swiatek. This is a woman who has handed out 28 bagel sets (6-0) since the start of 2022, after all.
But the analytical thinkers and students of the game also find it inspiring.
2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova is one of them.
“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, I do it,” Krejcikova told BNPParibasopen.com. “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.”
It should be noted that Krejcikova has won two of four meetings with Swiatek – an impressive strike rate against the world beater. But the Czech can’t help being blown away by Swiatek’s maturity, nevertheless.
“For me she is a big inspiration, especially since she is so young,” she says. “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.”
As Swiatek enjoys her 50th consecutive week atop the WTA rankings, her competition on tour sees her as a litmus test. You want to see how your game measures up to the best? Take a swipe at Iga.
Just do it at your own peril…
2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu took her shot in the Round of 16 and managed four games.
“I saw a taste of the level where No. 1 is at physically and how she is at the corners, repetitive, relentless. Yeah, I just couldn’t take that,” Raducanu said.
Here at Indian Wells, where the night conditions are chilly and the gritty hard courts tend to skew ultra slow, Swiatek is even more of a menace.
“She loves it when it’s slow and heavy,” Raducanu said. “She just was pretty on me, to be honest. 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.”
Romania’s Sorana Cirstea made a surprise run to the quarterfinals playing smashmouth tennis. Against Swiatek on Thursday, she could only muster five games.
“I was playing a bit too defensive,” she said. “You can’t do that against Iga because she will definitely punish you straight away.”
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 17, 2023
So what can you do against Iga?
Her next opponent, 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, definitely has some ideas. She defeated Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in the Australian Open this year, and will hope for a similar result in today’s second women’s semifinal.
But she knows the conditions here might make an encore more difficult.
“It’s not easy against her, because you feel that every point is gonna be tough,” she warned, adding that she benefitted by playing like she had nothing to lose the last time she faced her.
Well done by Rybakina for employing that psychological trick, but the truth is that there is always something to lose in a tennis match. Games, sets and confidence. Players who come out on the losing end against Swiatek would be wise to take a page from Andreescu’s playbook.
“Next time I play her I definitely want to get my revenge,” the Canadian concluded, hopefully.
Onto the next…