WNo matter how big a women’s tennis tournament is held these weeks, the pictures are ultimately the same everywhere. It is always the same young woman who wins the last point and then ties her right hand and stretches it towards her trainer, wipes her mouth with the sweatband around her wrist and hurries to the net to receive the congratulations from her defeated colleague , followed by fun jumps in front of the audience.
This young woman whose cheers become a routine ritual is Iga Swiatek entering her fourth week as world number one. It seems certain that she will be a worthy successor to Australian Ashleigh Barty, who suddenly resigned. The question that is more pressing in the tennis circus: who on earth is going to stop Swiatek’s triumphant advance? “In our sport, anyone can beat anyone,” the Pole claims. This applies so far to the players from world number two and down.
Aryna Sabalenka tried it twice last time. At the end of February in Doha, the fourth in the world rankings was hopelessly overwhelmed. On Sunday in the final of the WTA tournament in Stuttgart, she was better prepared for Swiatek’s aggressive foundation, but Sabalenka lost even more clearly with 2: 6, 2: 6 due to many mistakes. The Pole thus won the title and the sports car at its first participation in Stuttgart.
At the same time, she celebrated her fourth tournament victory in a row after previously in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. In all four finals combined, she lost just 15 matches – others do not even make it in a single match in three sets. “My head used to be full of emotions, now I find solutions,” says Iga Swiatek. Her psychologist Daria Abramowicz has worked hard on her winning streak.
The 20-year-old has now won 23 games in a row, only Williams sisters Serena and Venus have managed anything similar at an even younger age. To paraphrase Gary Lineker’s football proverb is the motto of the hour: Women’s tennis is a simple game: two women chase a felt ball in two or three sets, and Iga Swiatek always wins in the end. “She certainly still has a lot ahead of her,” said Angelique Kerber, who lost to the Pole at Indian Wells in mid-March.
Parts of the tennis world breathed a sigh of relief
It was a little surprising how confident Iga Swiatek performed at lunchtime on Sunday. The night before, she had successfully completed three hard-fought sets against Liudmila Samsonowa. The three-hour battle full of playful ups and downs and dramaturgical twists seemed to her “like a marathon,” Swiatek said after the 6: 7, 6: 4 and 7: 5 victory. After the final, which was only half as long, world number one thanked her physiotherapist for “keeping her alive”.
Parts of the tennis world also breathed a sigh of relief. They were happy that the Polish favorite, who had a needle in the colors of Ukraine on his cap, won the tournament and not the Belarusian Sabalenka. Otherwise, Stuttgart would have delivered the images that Wimbledon fears – namely a winner from a country at war with Ukraine. On Saturday, a Russian-Belarusian final between Samsonova and Sabalenka was in the air for a while. Swiatek avoided this perceived rudeness with a tour de force.
Unlike Wimbledon, Russians and Belarusians are allowed to continue playing on the normal professional tour. But do not expect much affection. When the Stuttgart crowd applauded Aryna Sabalenka appropriately kindly at the award ceremony, the Belarusian could not resist a point: “You could have cheered on me during the match.” Instead, she had to listen to “Iga” song.
The fact that Sabalenka is fighting as a citizen of a belligerent power has already been shown in the days before. When the nearly 24-year-old was asked about the Wimbledon exclusion, she was visibly uncomfortable despite the words she chose. The WTA as a professional organization responded to this and took the Belarusian out of the public eye. Aryna Sabalenka no longer needs to hold press conferences at the moment, WTA sends reviews of the game to journalists as audio files on request: no further questions.