Riding a winning streak comparable to some of the greatest players in the history of tennis, Iga Swiatek’s amazing run may end at Wimbledon, here’s why.
An astonishing winning streak has seen the world No.1 Iga Swiatek not only secure five WTA titles in a row, but also the prestigious Roland Garros title to make it an even six. Now a two-time Grand Slam champion, the Pole has already established a career worth remembering at just the tender age of 21. As rumors start to spread about the emergence of a “Queen of Clay” in Iga Swiatek, one can only ponder how the young star will fare on a polar opposite surface.
1. Unfavorable playstyle for grass
There is a reason that many tennis players perform exceptionally well on certain surfaces and quite poorly on others, and the impact that the surface has on the winning requirements is not to be underestimated. Perhaps the most extreme example of this we’ll ever see is the case of Rafael Nadal, who currently has won 14 of his 22 Grand Slams on clay, making up over 63% of his total major titles. Contrastingly, only 9% of his majors were won on grass, having secured only two Wimbledon titles in his incredible career.
This discrepancy comes from the extreme differences between clay and grass, combined with the specialist playstyle of Rafael Nadal. With Iga Swiatek following a similar route to her idol and building a name for herself as the Queen of Clay, it has become evident that she shares a similar playstyle to the Spaniard that is built for the clay court. Heavy topspin, great movement, and efficient sliding abilities are just a few of the characteristics that make for a great clay-court champion.
Unfortunately for Swiatek, this skillset won’t bring the same devastating effect on her opponents on the grass lawns of the Wimbledon Championships. This is because of the fast-paced nature of the grass surface which sees the ball bounce up faster while maintaining its trajectory at a lower height. For that reason, Wimbledon’s courts reward players who hit low, flat shots at greater speeds, as the ball will skid away from the opponent and increase the opportunity to secure a winner.
2. Poor track record
Naturally, a player like Iga Swiatek who excels on clay would need to adjust her game plan for the faster, unforgiving surface of grass. This could mean going for bigger serves, approaching the net more, and taking greater risks on her groundstrokes. While Swiatek is more than capable of being a huge threat and even the outright favorite for Wimbledon, the harsh reality is her grass-root tennis record remains quite poor in comparison to her success on other surfaces.
In fact, Iga Swiatek’s record on grass courts is the poorest of all surfaces she’s ever played on since 2017, albeit still an impressive 68.42% win rate. However, compared to her clay and indoor hard court win rates which surpass the 80% mark, there is a significant drop in results to be noted. Having never gone past the fourth round at Wimbledon in her career, the world No.1 will need to break a series of personal records for a chance at the title and to extend her fairy tale win streak.
3. Returning Wimbledon champions
To make the task even more difficult, there will be numerous ex-Wimbledon champions making their return to this year’s prestigious Grand Slam event. Such players include Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, and of course, 7-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams. Their familiarity with the surface as well as their similar playstyles in hitting flatter, more aggressive shots that take on the ball early make each of these former Wimbledon champions major threats to the clay specialist Iga Swiatek.
On the plus side, Swiatek does have some notable wins against these players, with the exception of Garbine Muguruza whom she has yet to beat, and Serena Williams whom she has yet to play. Furthermore, there is no denying that the world No.1 is in the best form of her career, and she could easily turn her grass-court stats around this season. Of course, it won’t be easy going into Wimbledon without having played a single grass-root match this year, not to mention coming off of a polar-opposite surface at Roland Garros.
Regardless of her track record and preference for clay, Iga Swiatek is in with a solid chance at the Wimbledon title, but it will likely be the toughest tournament of the year for her. Despite her lower win percentage on grass which could indicate her vulnerability on the surface, the world No.1 remains the tournament favorite by a long mile. Whether she decides on a different game plan or sticks to her guns will be revealed soon enough. Either way, Iga Swiatek will have to translate her clay and hard court success onto the iconic green surface of Wimbledon for a chance at consecutive Grand Slam titles.
A first round win gives Iga the record for most consecutive wins ever by any player. Your article per your usual style predicts both a win and a loss for Iga. Although there are many articles on the different court surfaces, my thinking is the surface doesn’t make much difference for most players. A more important topic is the health of her shoulder and will she be able to hit as hard as usual next week.
She won junior Wimbledon only five years ago, so go rewrite this analysis
You still do not know Iga.
This high skilled number one in the world young woman has everything to prove that grass is her home, too.
By the way, she does not need to prove anything more. She already did it. She did not avoid Wimbledon. Could she? Of course. It means that she is not going for the records. It means that she enjoys and loves playing tennis. Today, there is no tennis player like Iga Świątek. Hats off ladies and gentlemen.
Your analysis is confusing. Bjorn Borg, who used a heavy topspin, which you consider a liability on grass, had equal success at the French and Wimbledon. On the other hand, Monica Seles who used a very flat stroke, which you said is more suitable for grass, won three French Opens but had difficulty winning in Wimbledon.
Hi Rezile. I never mentioned topspin being a liability on grass, but was emphasizing more on the different shots that certain players specialize in and how the surface could complement that. You do make good points about Bjorn Borg and Monica Seles, however I would argue that Bjorn Borg was part of the serve/volley era where baseline rallies weren’t as prevalent as they are today, and concepts like topspin didn’t matter as much.
In Monica Seles’s case, there likely weren’t many elite topspin specialists around like we have today that could’ve challenged her at the level she was playing. At the end of the day, you still have to be at a certain standard before factors like the surface can work in your favor. Also, I’d say Monica’s success had a lot to do with her mental fortitude and defensive abilities to stay in the point, attributes that are vital for success on clay.
Hi Ronald Mc. With all due respect, I really don’t think Iga’s junior career is relevant here. You say “only five years ago” but that is a relatively long time considering Iga only just turned 21. Furthermore, most players are still in the developmental stages of their playstyles during their junior careers, and factors like court surface don’t hold as much weight until players start to sharpen specific areas of their game that could see them take advantage of it.
Hi Henry. Yes, I do not doubt Iga is still the favorite for Wimbledon by a mile, especially with her current form. I absolutely would not be surprised if she does in fact show that grass is her home too, as you said. Of course, I still stand by my statements that just because she is the favorite, does not mean she is going to have it easy, and I think this is particularly true considering her grass record is not as impressive as her clay/hard court record. Her current winning streak is off the charts no doubt, but I do feel if her streak was to end this year then it’s a little more likely to happen at Wimbledon than any other Grand Slam.
There’s something to be said for momentum, and Swiatek certainly has the wind at her back. Surface is important,, of course, but top players acclimate so that shouldn’t be the determining factor. At this point her team’s emphasis is ightly on the mental side of the game, knowing that she clearly has the requisite skills and fitness to compete any time, any where.