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Built to last

Winning skeins are extremely hard to accomplish in tennis, and not simply because of the depth of talent in any given tournament. Players need to be at their best to keep pace with the competition, and, even then, they’re still subject to luck, or lack thereof; a wrong turn during sleep, a negative biorhythm, even an errant bounce — literally and figuratively — can stop a run in its tracks. And it’s even harder to sustain on the distaff side for a variety of reasons, not least among them the increased possibility of upsets in best-of-three affairs.

Which, in a nutshell, is why the continuing dominance of Iga Świątek is no mean feat. She was certainly on top of her game in the French Open women’s singles final the other day, hitting the ground running to make short work of 18-year-old Coco Gauff. And as she held the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, she reflected on her 35th straight victory, a pinnacle not even Serena Williams, arguably the greatest of all time, was hitherto able to reach. Even as the pandemic added to the uncertainty, she remained the single sure thing in the sport.

True, Świątek benefited from a confluence of events, not least of which was the sudden retirement of erstwhile World Number One Ashleigh Barty in March. By then, she was already piling up the triumphs and cementing her reputation as competition that had to be avoided at all costs on tour. So good had she become that even four-time major champion Naomi Osaka talked about being “scared” in a dream that had her as the first-round opponent. Perhaps it was because she dropped only four games when the two met in the Miami Open final last April.

Indeed, Świątek didn’t merely outlast all those who cast moist eyes on the crown at Roland Garros. She plowed through them; even Qinwen Zheng, who had the singular distinction of taking a set from her in the fourth round, was then summarily dismissed; after losing the tie-break, she took 12 of the next 14 games. What’s more, she looks primed to keep going. She has a wicked forehand, and, more importantly, knows how to construct points. She also understands the value of going after every single ball, making full use of her outstanding footwork. And lest she lose her killer instinct, she has resolved to stay focused both on and off the court, shunning any and all distractions throughout a tournament.

In other words, Świątek is built to last. As she noted, “I feel like I’ve proven myself.” And how.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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