Are Swiatek's Grand Slam Struggles A Minor Blip Or Worrying Trend After Latest Exit?

Are Swiatek's Grand Slam Struggles A Minor Blip Or Worrying Trend After Latest Exit?

by Nurein Ahmed

Iga Swiatek's Australian Open adventure shuddered to a halt as she fell to a three-set defeat to Linda Noskova in the third round.

It was the Pole's earliest exit at a Grand Slam tournament since falling at the same stage to wily French veteran Alize Cornet at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships. Incidentally, these two defeats have a jarring common narrative.

Back then, Swiatek had put together a 37-match winning streak before it was snapped. While Swiatek didn't quite reach those heights coming to this year's Australian Open, she was unbeaten in her last 18 singles matches heading into Saturday's clash against the Czech teenager.

The 22-year-old was the heavy favorite at least according to the oddsmakers, to win her fifth Grand Slam and first at the Australian Open. But this limp defeat begs the question of whether it is only a minor hiccup or developing into some sort of substantial worrying trend.

It shouldn't sneak under the radar that Swiatek is still the world's best player and will remain in that position regardless of who wins the 2024 Australian Open. A look at Swiatek's Grand Slam record should give us at least a conclusive answer on her current struggles.

Swiatek has played in a Grand Slam main draw on 20 occasions. She has won four titles in that stretch since the start of 2019, when she debuted at the Australian Open. Additionally, Swiatek has reached the second week of a major tournament on 14 different occasions.

At 22, to sum up her Grand Slam career as a worrying trend is a bit of an overreaction and subjective. She has reached the quarterfinals in all four Grand Slams and remains the only WTA player to win multiple Grand Slams since 2020.

The jury is still out on whether the Polish star is a world-beater outside clay courts. Considering the bulk of her Grand Slam wins and the trophies have come at Roland Garros, maybe the appropriate question should be whether her struggles are much more conspicuous away from clay.

The answer is strongly supported by the evidence that Swiatek has won one Grand Slam (2022 US Open) on non-clay surface, which is the same number as some of her rivals like Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, and Elena Rybakina.

Several tennis fans feel Swiatek is a little hard on herself. But that is the baggage that you carry for being the top-ranked player. Pressure follows almost by osmosis everywhere. But what tweaks could Swiatek make or incorporate to address this hiccup in Grand Slams?

Firstly, the problem at the Grand Slam level could be more mental than, say, physical or tactical. Swiatek admitted to feeling "more stressed" in the aftermath of her defeat to Noskova, which was extremely surprising. She had looked in fine fettle coming to the tournament.

Moreover, Swiatek has lauded the impact of her psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, who helped the mental side of her game. But maybe they'll reflect at the end of the Australian Open and look at spots that still need improvement because she has run into a mental block.

Secondly, Swiatek needs to be adaptable in her approach to tournaments, matches, and matchups. The beautiful thing about tennis is that not every tournament is the same. And this dynamic sport calls for different strategies and preparation schedules every week.

This doesn't mean she lacks top-notch preparation or a capable team, but just that some of the inherent limitations in her game might take more time to address as she evolves. We shouldn't forget that at 22, she hasn't even tapped into her best years.


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