She won Indian Wells and sailed through Miami. We’ve seen and heard all the numbers. But to put Iga Swiatek’s sweep of two of the most difficult events of the season into context is not easy.
But that did not stop us from trying.
Here are our final thoughts on Swiatek’s run and a memorable month of action.
Best of Swiatek's rise
- Champions Corner: The mindset that paved the way to Swiatek's sweep
- Inside the numbers: Swiatek streaks to the Sunshine Double
- A rivalry rife with respect: Here's hoping for more Swiatek, Osaka showdowns
- Get the Gear: Here's what Swiatek and Osaka sported in Miami
- In Photos: Iga Swiatek's Road to World No.1
- Insider Wrap: From Swiatek to Fruhvirtova, the biggest stories from the Miami Open
Swiatek accomplished so much during her sweep of Indian Wells and Miami. What stat stands out to you the most?
Alex Macpherson: In Swiatek's past six finals - one Grand Slam, one WTA 500 and four WTA 1000s - she has dropped 20 games combined. It's a truly absurd stat. Even more ridiculous: She has lost only four games across the second sets of those finals. Swiatek is able to first bring a relentless level of dominance to her most important matches and then somehow get better and better as the finishing line approaches. And all of those opponents were in the Top 5 at one point.
Nguyen: Not all streaks are the same. Swiatek's run of 17 straight wins all happened at the WTA 1000 level, and the draws weren't breaking open for her. Her average rank of opponent during her streak is 29. It actually dropped after the Miami final because Naomi Osaka, then No.77, was the lowest-ranked opponent she faced.
Swiatek’s wins from the R16 onwards:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 2, 2022
d. Kasatkina 63 60
d. Sabalenka 62 63
d. Sakkari 64 63
d. Kontaveit 62 60
d. Kerber 46 62 63
d. Keys 61 60
d. Halep 76 64
d. Sakkari 64 61
d. Gauff 63 61
d. Kvitova 63 63
d. Pegula 62 75
d. Osaka 64 60 pic.twitter.com/L7KGJgHi7o
This is a remarkable stat. The last player to win 17 straight matches was Simona Halep in 2020. Her average rank of opponent was 54. Victoria Azarenka's run of 17 matches in 2016, which included winning the Sunshine Double, was 68. The last woman to win 17 or more consecutive matches on hard courts was Osaka from 2020 to 2021. The average rank of her opponents was 61.
All of this highlights the degree of difficulty of what Swiatek accomplished, all while juggling Ashleigh Barty's retirement and the pressure of her own ascension to No.1 at the age of 20.
What player, outside of Swiatek, impressed you the most during the Sunshine Double?
Macpherson: Daria Saville played only four tournaments across 2020 and 2021 because Achilles surgery. While she was an unknown quantity this year, the Australian ran, scrapped and dug in as much as she did when in her Top 20 prime to reach the Indian Wells last 16 and Miami quarterfinals. Saville overcame Ons Jabeur in the Indian Wells Round of 64 (her first win versus a Top 10 opponent since 2018), rocketed from No.610 to No.129 and has won three of the 20 longest matches this season. It's terrific to have her back, but we can only hope she and Tofu, her beloved sausage dog, are coping with their enforced separation.
Nguyen: As Alex rightfully notes, Saville was the surprise of the spring. So I'll tip my hat to Paula Badosa. It's easy to forget she had a disappointing pair of tournaments in the Middle East. She went into her Indian Wells title defense with a swirl of doubt and pressure. She responded by making the Indian Wells semifinals and Miami quarterfinals to rise to a career-high No.3.
Like Swiatek, Badosa was considered more of clay-court threat than a reliable hard-court player. And like Swiatek, she's quieted those whispers. And if two parallels weren't enough, here's a third: Badosa now heads to clay, where her powerful, physical game flourishes.
What was your favorite match of the Sunshine Double swing?
Macpherson: Curiously, the two matches since Emma Raducanu's US Open title that have convinced me she is for real were both losses. She fell to Wang Xinyu in Linz last year and to Petra Martic in the Indian Wells third round last month. For 2 hours and 46 minutes, the veteran Martic and Raducanu went toe-to-toe in a feast of shot-making. There were dips and opportunities not taken. But the highs were deliriously high, not least the sensational string of points Raducanu reeled off to win the first-set tiebreak.
Raducanu, 19, has lost a few heartbreakers this year, but should draw strength from the quality she showed in that match. And as for the winner - it was a welcome sight to see Martic, a player who owns one of the widest repertoires on tour, playing a high level of tennis again.
Nguyen: Naomi Osaka vs. Belinda Bencic in the Miami semifinals. Bencic has been a known matchup problem for Osaka.
That Osaka kept her cool and problem-solved to engineer a three-set comeback bodes well for her. For me, this was the most important match of the Sunshine Swing.
Interesting breakdown from Naomi Osaka on what makes Belinda Bencic a challenging opponent for her. pic.twitter.com/9arEtVaEO1— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 1, 2022
Just like that we’re on to the clay season. What is the top storyline you will be paying attention to early on?
Macpherson: "I'm gonna try to take this clay-court season really seriously," Naomi Osaka said after the Miami final. The former World No.1's run was satisfying in terms of quietening those who had written her off. Seeing her relaxed and enjoying herself throughout the fortnight might have been the greater victory in light of her struggles over the past year. I've long been in the camp that argues Osaka needs only a touch more experience and commitment to elevate her clay and grass results to the heights of her hard-court successes.
Her early results showed promise on all surfaces, and there's plenty of history of champions who initially seem like a fish out of water on unfamiliar turf eventually mastering it (Venus Williams on grass, Maria Sharapova on clay). At times, Osaka has seemingly not been in that camp herself, but it's encouraging to see her joining us at last.
Nguyen: What will the Top 5 look like after Roland Garros? With Swiatek defending points in Rome, Krejcikova in Paris and Sabalenka in Madrid, there's a lot of movement for a shakeup. You can add Badosa's mass of points from Madrid (semifinals), Belgrade (win), and Roland Garros (quarterfinals) as well.
That could open the door for a surge from players like Ons Jabeur, Anett Kontaveit, Garbiñe Muguruza and Maria Sakkari, though the Greek will be defending Roland Garros semifinal points as well.