It was approaching dinner time in Paris and the shadows were creeping across Court Philippe Chatrier. And Iga Swiatek was, uncharacteristically, flustered. Cristina Bucsa, playing an uber-aggressive return position, broke her twice in the first five games.

Returning at 4-all, the No.70-ranked Spaniard actually wrangled a break point that would have left her serving for the first set against the defending Roland Garros champion. Order, however, was swiftly restored -- as it often is with Swiatek -- and she settled into a 6-4, 6-0 victory Tuesday.

And so, at this very moment, in the major scheme of things, Swiatek stands alone among women’s tennis players.

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Because of a remarkable and unpredictable series of events, Swiatek is the only woman currently active and playing a full schedule to have won three Grand Slam singles titles.

Serena Williams, along with her 23 major titles, retired last fall. Venus Williams (seven majors) is 42 and played two matches back in January. Naomi Osaka (four) is expecting the birth of her first child and hopes to return to the Hologic WTA Tour in 2024. Angelique Kerber (three) is eyeing a comeback after giving birth to a daughter in February.

Ashleigh Barty (three) retired last year at the age of 25 and is expecting her first child. Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, both 33, have won two majors, as have Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep. Eight active players have won a single Grand Slam singles crown.

That makes Swiatek the boss of women’s tennis. She’s won three of the past 11 contested Grand Slam events and is the clear-cut favorite to win her fourth at Roland Garros. She is one of only three women born in the 2000s to win a major -- and Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu are still looking for their second.

Swiatek, born 17 months into the 21st century, turns 22 on Wednesday. That’s a typical age for a college graduate.

“I have so much respect for Iga,” said Barbora Krejcikova, who won the Roland Garros title the one time Swiatek didn’t over the past three years. “She’s what -- 21, 22? When I was 21, I was in diapers. Like tennis-wise, in diapers.

“And she’s dominating. It’s unbelievable.”

Four majors wouldn’t put her in super-elite company, but it would place her in a nice neighborhood that includes Osaka, Kim Clijsters and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Five? That would be impressive Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova real estate.

Martina Navratilova has been watching. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles but was a relatively late bloomer, winning her third at the 1981 Australian Open at the age of 24. The fourth came in 1982 at Roland Garros. She was 25.

“Look, Iga’s further ahead than most at her age,” Navratilova said before the tournament. “In every way: rankings-wise, majors-wise and maturity. She seems very put together. She’s struggled with confidence over the years, but she always seems to overcome it in the end.”

Swiatek, who will also feature in Part 2 of Netflix's "Break Point," reached seven ITF finals at the beginning of her professional career -- and won them all. At the age of 17, she was the unseeded winner of the Wimbledon junior event on a surface she still struggles to command. In her first year on the Hologic WTA Tour, at the age of 18, she reached the fourth round at Roland Garros (losing to Halep) and finished No.61 at year’s end. In 2020, as an unseeded teenager, she won her first French Open title.

Today, she’s riding a 62-week run as the No.1-ranked player. She hasn’t been as dominant as last year -- Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have closed the gap -- but Swiatek has been pretty good. She’s third in the Race to the WTA Finals and with her win over Bucsa on Tuesday, she's a sporty 29-6 this year. She’s won 19 of her past 20 matches at Roland Garros and 41 of 45 on clay.

But … if Swiatek doesn’t at least reach the quarterfinals in Paris, Sabalenka will move past her to No.1. Swiatek (8,940 ranking points) is defending 2,000 points this fortnight, while Sabalenka (7,541) defends only 310.

This is the first tournament in over a year where it’s possible she could lose the No.1 ranking.

“Well,” Swiatek said when informed of this at her pre-tournament press conference, “I didn’t even know about that. No problem. It doesn’t change a lot for me.”

That exchange underlined the attitude that has sustained Swiatek for so long on top. As the numbers and the accolades pile up, she doesn’t seem all that impressed -- freeing her up to produce the very numbers and accolades that come with them.

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Swiatek’s path isn’t easy, although one serious impediment was removed when Lesia Tsurenko upset 13th-seeded Krejcikova in the first round. If the seeds hold, she could face Bianca Andreescu in the fourth round, Coco Gauff (quarterfinals), Rybakina or Ons Jabeur in the semifinals and Sabalenka in the final.

And although Swiatek’s the player of the moment, she seems positioned to play the long game. With coach Tomasz Wiktorowski, psychologist Daria Abramowicz and fitness coach Maciej Ryszczuk, she has a dedicated, intelligent team around her. And, perhaps just as important, Swiatek is willing to listen to their advice.

“Being this young,” Navratilova said, “she’s still absorbing a lot of knowledge about the game. And playing more by instinct. I mean, there’s still room for improvement.”

A victory in Paris likely will spark the intriguing how-many-majors-will-she-win conversation.

Some more major context: Osaka won her third Grand Slam singles title at 22, her fourth at 23. Sharapova collected her third at age 20, but was 25 and 27 when she won her fourth and fifth. Venus Williams already had four before she turned 22; three more Wimbledon titles came at 25, 27 and 29. Back in the day, Hingis won all five before she turned 19.

“Swiatek's got a pretty good head start, I would say, if she can keep it up physically and emotionally,” Navratilova said. “She’s playing more like a 24-, 25-year-old.

“It’s a little more open than it was this time last year. We had a pretty good idea Iga was going to be the year-end top-ranked player. Talk to me at the end of this year, but I think she’s still looking pretty good.”

Happy 22nd birthday, Iga. Many happy returns.