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Iga Swiatek conquers the pressure of being unbeatable



Iga Swiatek takes home 2024 French Open

As she lay on a yoga mat on the floor, still in her clothing from the match, she covered her face as much as she could with her hand and her hat, but she couldn’t control the tears from streaming down her face.

Swiatek, the two-time defending champion, was just minutes removed from her French Open second-round match against Naomi Osaka and the nearly three-hour clash had pushed her to her limits, testing her until the final points.

Despite trailing 4-1 in the deciding set and later facing match point, Swiatek won the match — but the emotional toll it had taken was obvious with every tear, every chest heave. Video of the scene quickly went viral.

[I was] just overwhelmed with emotions,” Swiatek said later. “I honestly thought that I’m going to be out of the tournament. Even though I felt something on court, it kind of hit me after. I was happy that I won, but I still felt like I was really on the edge.”

Nine days and five matches later, Swiatek emerged victorious — yet again.

On Saturday, she claimed her fourth title at Roland Garros, and fifth major trophy, with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jasmine Paolini in just 68 minutes. She now has the most Grand Slam titles of any woman on tour, save for Venus Williams, and she joined Roger Federer and Monica Seles as the only players in the Open Era to win all five of their first major final appearances.

She became the first woman since Justine Henin to win three consecutive Roland Garros titles, and is tied with Henin for the third-most singles titles among women at the tournament in the Open Era.

But what Swiatek revealed after her match over Osaka made this victory different from all those before. While Saturday’s clash was relatively straightforward, as were all of the matches following the battle with Osaka, that uncontrolled emotion proved just how overwhelming the pressure of being the favorite and world No. 1 can be.

And yet, Swiatek found a way to handle it all and win.

“I was almost out of the tournament in the second round,” Swiatek said to the crowd after the final. “I needed to believe that this one is going to be possible, so it’s been a very emotional tournament.”

Swiatek has been the world No. 1 for all but eight weeks during the past two years. Tim Goode/Getty Images
SWIATEK, WHO TURNED 23 during the tournament, has been the world No. 1 for all but eight weeks the past two years. She has been a major champion since October 2020 and, while others have struggled with the attention and fame that comes with this distinction, Swiatek has rarely faltered on the court despite the growing expectations.

In fact, she almost seemed ready for it.

Swiatek had started working with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz in 2019 and, after stunning the field at the pandemic-delayed French Open in 2020, Swiatek — then ranked No. 54 — told reporters she thought the new attention and expectations were “going to be OK for me.”

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