Iga Swiatek is learning how to win ugly. That's bad news for the rest of the tour.
The Polish teenager captured her third career title and second of the season on Sunday with a 46-minute masterclass to defeat No.9 Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 to win the Internzionali BNL d'Italia. Swiatek's title run saw her notch wins over Alison Riske, Madison Keys, save match points against Dubai finalist Barbora Krejcikova, and then dominate No.5 Elina Svitolina, a red-hot Coco Gauff, and Pliskova in the final.
Swiatek now holds two of the three biggest clay-court titles on tour and is set to make her Top 10 debut on Monday, a reflection of not just her talent but her consistency since winning Roland Garros last fall. Since that magical fortnight in Paris, Swiatek has played seven tournaments. She has won two of them (Adelaide, Rome) and advanced to the Round of 16 or better in all but one.
Swiatek spoke with WTA Insider to break down her dramatic week in Rome, where she became the third player this season to come from match points down to win a title.
The other two players? No.1 Ashleigh Barty in Miami and No.2 Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open. That's pretty good company.
WTA Insider: Let's start from the beginning. You said in your press conference that at the start of the week, you didn't think this result was going to happen.
Swiatek: Yeah, that's true. It was pretty dramatic. I feel like everything happened this week. I feel like even though I won the title and I have the trophy, the most important thing for me is that I gained so much experience and I learned so much stuff that it's going to have an effect in the future. So I'm really happy about that.
WTA Insider: What are the lessons you learned this week?
Swiatek: I kind of learned the same thing as usual, but I keep coming back to the attitude that is not always the best for playing tennis. But I learned as always that the key is to keep your expectations low.
I learned that I can be a consistent player and I can win matches when I'm not feeling the best. Because the first three rounds were really tricky for me and I felt better and better every day. But still, I thought it's not enough to win a tournament. And then suddenly everything changed.
I also learned that when you have situations that you don't have influence on, like playing a quarterfinal and semifinal the same day, you just have to focus on the positive aspects of it. Because I was pretty frustrated at the beginning that I had this situation, but then I realized that it really helped me because I don't know how would I play if I didn't have this one-day break. I think it gave me a lot, actually, on my match with Elina Svitolina. I could actually be in the rhythm and be on court for a longer time and it gave me a lot of confidence for today.
So looking at the positive side of stuff is really important.
WTA Insider: Ash Barty said that in her run to the 2019 Roland Garros title, there were so many weather delays and scheduling issues, that it actually allowed her to just focus on her tennis. Do you relate to that?
Swiatek: Yeah, for sure. Because at the end, you just get to focus on the work.
Here it was frustrating because only me and Elina had a situation like that, that our match was postponed for the other day. When the order of play changes or something, both of the players have the same situation. But here, at the beginning my first reaction was, hey, that's a little bit unfair.
But I just kept being OK with that, actually. And when I just focused on playing and I realized that it can actually help me, it's changed my attitude completely.
WTA Insider: You've been very open in discussing the stress and pressure of becoming an overnight sensation after winning Roland Garros last year. You were concerned whether you could play at a top level consistently. Now, five months on, you have proven that you can be consistent. Do you think that because you've been so open about it, you've been able to handle it better?
Swiatek: It's a tricky thing because even though I'm talking about it, still, I have trouble myself to accept many things. But for sure, working with a psychologist and having that kind of support on every tournament helped me a lot because people tend to lose the proper perspective. I'm looking at things through my emotions a lot of times. So it's good to have someone that's going to keep you on Earth and someone you trust that can always tell the truth.
So I'm really happy that I have big support around me. I'm not only talking about Daria [Abramowicz], but also my coach Piotr [Sierzputowski], and my physio and physical coach Maciej [Ryszczuk]. They're great and they've been with me through a lot of weird times.
That's why I always say, when someone asks me what would I say to younger players, I say, hey, you should have good support around you because even though it's an individual sport you're not going to do it on your own.
WTA Insider: What were the tough moments since Roland Garros?
Swiatek: It's hard to choose just a few moments.
For sure, learning how to deal with the business side of tennis was hard because you have more obligations and more stuff to worry about. And you don't know if it's going to influence your game or not. For sure it does influence, but you have to learn how to deal with all this stuff. It's hard to find the balance at the beginning between working and doing other things. So that's also the kind of thing that my team helped me a lot with.
I think dealing with expectations at the beginning. I remember my first match in Australia at the tournament before the Australian Open, it was really, really hard. I was thinking in the back of my mind that, hey, there are so many people that trusted in me, I [have to] play well. That really destroyed me for a few days and also during my match. So that was pretty hard.
There are some dramas, really, every few weeks, because there are many things that I've done for the first time since French Open. As soon as I am going to get some balance and find my rhythm in this new world, it's going to be much, much easier. And I just kind of accepted that right now it's going to be tough, but then in a few years, it's just going to be a routine for me.
WTA Insider: It looked like through the first three rounds in Rome, you seemed like you were trying to figure out how to win ugly. Is that what it felt like for the first few matches for you?
Swiatek: Yeah, it wasn't easy. And winning ugly is a good phrase to describe it.
Because when I was younger - and still even one year ago - when I was playing bad, immediately in my mind I had this scenario, hey, you can't win when you're playing bad. But right now, when my level of game's a little bit better, even when I'm feeling bad, I know that I can win against players.
I'm just aware that I can play a few matches not perfectly, and then it's going to be better and better. Last year it was hard because when my game wasn't there, I just wasn't that good to win the first rounds. Right now, I have time to actually develop during the tournament, and that's much, much better.
But it's some kind of thing that everybody has to learn and I think I did that pretty quickly. So I'm glad. Still, it's always not easy and you always are frustrated that, hey, you put so much work in practicing and you are playing so well in practice, but then you are playing a match and it's worse.
Tennis is kind of frustrating sometimes. You just have to accept it and keep going. That's what I did this week. And that's why this tournament is so special for me.
WTA Insider: You now have two weeks until Roland Garros. Are you disappointed there's an extra week before Roland Garros? Or are you happy there are two weeks until you begin your title defense?
Swiatek: I think it's a good thing because always we try to have some few days off before a Grand Slam to rest. So I think that situation is perfect for me. Also I have some obligations to do at home, so we're going to rest a little bit here. Then we're going to come back home. I'm sure in Poland everything is is kind of crazy after my tournament here. We're going to just come back to work and we don't have actually time to chill.
But I think that the French Open being postponed, it really gave me a lot because I can rest mentally and physically. Because even though that last match here was pretty quick and this tournament is actually really quick, I feel like I'm really mentally tired because of these first three matches and then adjusting to all of the scheduling. So I'm glad that we're going to have a few days off.
WTA Insider: You didn't do a very good job of diffusing the pressure and expectations that will be on you in Paris, but that's a very good looking trophy next to you.
Swiatek: It's good to have problems like that, you know? I wouldn't change it.