Iga Świątek: Could the Polish star be the next Rafael Nadal on clay?

Iga Swiatek

Iga Świątek once again showed her clay-court prowess with an emphatic 6-0 6-0 win over Karolína Plíšková to win the Italian Open.

The 19-year-old is the reigning French Open champion and was widely tipped to win this final, yet few expected her to inflict a ‘double bagel’ scoreline on the former world number one.

It was the first time ever such a scoreline has occurred in Rome. It also marked the shortest WTA final since 2009, finishing in just 46 minutes.

Even more remarkably, Plíšková won just 13 points in the whole match. Considering how impressive she’d looked throughout the tournament, the Czech fell victim to someone who was operating on an entirely different level.

Swiatek

Comparisons with Nadal

Ruthless, relentless, resounding. Three adjectives that are so often used to describe the great Rafael Nadal on this surface, but could easily describe Świątek now as well.

What makes her so perfectly suited to the clay is her imperious forehand –– mixed with clever use of spin and impressive speed on court. With such a balanced all-round game, there is every chance she could defend her Roland Garros title this year.

Women’s tennis has not had many clay-court specialists in recent times. Justine Henin won four French Open’s in five years, while Serena Williams has three clay majors to her name. Ashleigh Barty also went on a 16 game unbeaten streak on red clay recently, though she has only won two titles on this surface to date.

Świątek has now equalled this tally and she’s still just a teenager. In this way, there are plenty of similarities with Nadal –– especially when you consider the Spaniard won his first Roland Garros title in 2005, also aged 19. The only difference, the Polish younger won her first major without even dropping a set.

But, could she ever replicate the success of one of the sport’s all-time greats? Nadal has 20 Grand Slams to his name, including 13 French Open’s –– which may well be extended.

The last 16 womens’ majors have also had 11 different winners, highlighting the difficulty in winning multiple slams as a female player right now.

Świątek, though, just seems different to the rest. The likes of Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko have ostensibly felt the pressure that comes with being a Grand Slam winner, but the Pole is not putting the same unnecessary expectations on herself.

The talent is there, the belief is there and now the form is there as well. Świątek may need 12 more French Opens to equal the formidable Nadal, but her second could well come in a matter of weeks.

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