Forgive Iga Swiatek if she was looking for a break heading into the US Open. For while many of us have been enjoying some summer time off, the World No.1 has been grinding.
"From my perspective, I would say my tank of fuel is pretty empty," she said Sunday in Cincinnati. "Honestly, I’m not even going to regret a lot because I’m happy I’m going to have days off now.”
Swiatek played 18 matches over six weeks and won 15 of them. There was a title in Warsaw, but in the back-to-back WTA 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati she fell victim in the semifinals to an American. In Canada, it was Jessica Pegula, followed by Coco Gauff in Ohio. Both went on to win the tournament.
In fact, they cornered the market on momentum going into next week’s US Open. Gauff and Pegula won the three biggest titles of the hard-court summer.
But Swiatek's consistency remains unimpeachable. The Pole hasn't lost before the quarterfinals since January. Does she have enough gas in the tank to defend her title in New York?
Here are five thoughts coming out of the summer's two WTA 1000s in Montreal and Cincinnati:
Coco Gauff is feeling it
She’s been a major player since reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon four years ago (at the age of 15) but her progress up the tennis ladder hasn’t been fast enough for some -- which is ridiculous.
Gauff, 19, is the only teenager ranked among the Top 40. She’s No.5 in the race to the WTA Finals and No.6 overall. And now, with a new team in place, she’s won two of three tournaments and 11 of 12 matches, losing only to Pegula in Montreal. Gauff beat Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova in Canada and reigning French Open champion Swiatek in Cincinnati.
Some context: Gauff is the third-youngest player to win a WTA 1000 title since 2009 and the first player to win five titles as a teenager since Caroline Wozniacki, also 2009.
She understands the widespread expectations, but she’s not giving into them.
"I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that everybody’s path for you is not what’s true, it’s not what’s going to happen," she said after winning her first WTA 1000 title on Sunday. "Even the path that you want for yourself may not happen.
"I believe in give it your all. That’s all you can do. I’m going to give it my all in US Open."
In which case, watch out.
`The Race’ is heating up
The Top 8 at the end of the regular season will qualify for the Hologic WTA Tour's prestigious year-end tournament and the Race has taken shape.
Aryna Sabalenka sits at No.1 in the Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard with 6,910 points. She holds a narrow margin over Swiatek (6,665), followed by Elena Rybakina (5,346), Pegula (4,165) and Gauff (3,675). Cincinnati finalist Karolina Muchova defeated Sabalenka in the semifinals and vaulted into the No.8 spot. Muchova joins fellow Czech Republic players Vondrousova (No.6) and Petra Kvitova (No.9) in that Top 10.
Not only will the No.1 ranking again hang in the balance at the US Open, but the season’s last major offers a big opportunity to lock down spots for the year-end tournament.
Onsward and Upward
The good news: Ons Jabeur has reached the finals in three of the past five Grand Slam singles events. The bad: She lost to Rybakina last year at Wimbledon, Swiatek at the US Open and, most recently, to Vondrousova at Wimbledon.
"I had to take a few days -- a lot of days off -- to recover and still, it was not enough,” she said in Cincinnati. “I wasn’t feeling ready to play Montreal because that loss was kind of tough for me. I tried to reflect a bit on the final, but for now, I’ve got to be honest, it's still tough to think about it again.”
Jabeur lost her third match back, to Sabalenka in the quarterfinals. She looked sharp all week until she had to take a medical timeout for a right leg issue in that match.
Venus hoping to play US Open
Venus Williams withdrew from the Tennis in the Land event in Cleveland, citing a knee injury, but she's doing everything she can to get ready for the US Open.
“Unfortunately, my knee is just not acting right,” she said in a video. “It’s just not supporting me being on the court right now. It’s such a bummer ... but I'm going to work on myself, try to get myself together, so that way I can be at the [US] Open, and also, hopefully, come and play [Cleveland] next year.”
The US Open would be Williams’ seventh event of the year. In Cincinnati, she tallied her first Top 20 win of the year by defeating Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets before bowing out to Zheng Qinwen in three.
Looking for some matches
The top seeds in Cleveland, Caroline Garcia and Barbara Krejcikova, were hoping to put a positive run together going into New York. Garcia was a US Open semifinalist just last year.
No.7 Garcia lost her first matches in Washington, D.C., Montreal and Cincinnati, where she was the defending champion. No.12 Krejcikova, who suffered a leg injury at Wimbledon, has only played one match since -- a loss to Victoria Azarenka.
In her first win in six weeks, Garcia handled Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-3, 6-2, in Monday’s first round. Krejcikova, meanwhile, fell to Clara Tauson 6-4, 6-1. Krejcikova, the 2021 Roland Garros champion, had six double faults and was broken four times.