Wimbledon 2024: Iga Swiatek calls herself a perfectionist and now she wants to improve on grass

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Shortly after Iga Swiatek completed the most lopsided French Open final in 17 years, ceding a grand total of three games against an overmatched opponent to claim a third consecutive title in Paris, she was asked whether that represented a perfect performance.

Swiatek’s mind immediately went to what little went wrong in Court Philippe Chatrier that afternoon.

“Obviously, I mean, I got broken at the beginning,” she said, “so it wasn’t maybe perfect.”

A few minutes later, Swiatek used the word “perfectionist” to describe herself, perhaps offering some insight as to how she is approaching Wimbledon, the grass-court major that begins Monday — and the only Grand Slam tournament where she hasn’t been past the quarterfinals.

“Overall, tennis is different on grass,” said Swiatek, who was a junior champion at the All England Club in 2018. “I’ll just see and I’ll work hard to play better there.”

The 23-year-old from Poland has won four of the past five trophies on the red clay at Roland Garros, capped by a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Jasmine Paolini for the championship on June 8.

How does a player beat Swiatek on clay?

“It’s hard. You have to err very little. Match her intensity. Play deep shots. Try to be aggressive whenever there’s an easier ball,” said Paolini, who is now ranked in the top 10 but hardly looked that caliber in the final. “But it’s not easy. It wasn’t for me, and it’s a challenge that is the most difficult thing in women’s tennis at the moment. How to do it? I don’t know.”

Swiatek also was the 2022 champion at the hard-court U.S. Open and made it to the Australian Open semifinals on that surface earlier that season. But she is just 9-4 on the grass of the All England Club, by far her worst winning percentage at a Slam.

For someone who talks a lot about wanting to get “better and better,” not to mention someone who wants to do things perfectly on and off the court, it would make sense if she wanted to improve at Wimbledon.

Specifically, that might entail using her serve and her volleys to accumulate more easy points on the slick surface.

As it is, there isn’t much time spent on grass during the grind of the season, and Swiatek pulled out of a tuneup event on that surface after the French Open. She thinks — hopes? — that “competing every year at Wimbledon and practicing these couple of weeks makes you progress” on grass, and noted that while she at one point considered a training block on it during the offseason, her coach put a stop to that.

During the victory against Paolini for the championship at Roland Garros, Swiatek won 5 of 11 points when she went to the net.

“You saw my one volley today that I was supposed get in — and it went out,” Swiatek said. “So this will, for sure, stay in my head.”

That focus on what went wrong in order to make things go right in the future is simply part of who she is, with or without a racket in her hand.

“When I do anything, I want to do it 100%. I think when you’re a perfectionist, you are a perfectionist everywhere … and sometimes not being able to let it go,” Swiatek explained. “I’m working on it, and this is a tricky thing, because, for sure, it helps you to be better, but sometimes it can be huge baggage, as well. So it’s good to manage it properly.”

When a reporter followed up by asking for an example or two of ways in which Swiatek finds herself wanting to be perfect away from tennis, she smiled and replied: “We’re not (in) therapy, so, sorry.”

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Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Find his stories here: https://apnews.com/author/howard-fendrich

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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