Iga Swiatek's incredible form has elevated her to the top spot in women's tennis

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek's victory in Miami makes it 17 straight match wins in 2022 for the new no.1 | Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

After more than 100 weeks at the top of the pile, Ash Barty sadly departed professional tennis and vacated the no.1 ranking. This week, the deft Australian was replaced with a vivacious Pole.

Even if it's a little sooner than expected, it's no surprise to finally see Iga Swiatek at the summit of women's tennis. Since the 20-year-old's breakthrough major win at Roland Garros two years ago, her ascent has shifted from steady to stratospheric.

In lifting the Suzanne Lenglen cup, Swiatek peaked at the close of the 2020 campaign and entered the following year ranked inside the top 20.

With the resolute support of a great team - particularly sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz - Swiatek then consolidated her status as one of the game's brightest talents. The 2021 season saw consistent, rather than explosive, progress.

For the first time in her career, the Pole made the second week of each grand slam. While a trip to the last eight in Paris was her best showing, she was merely creating a solid foundation for the future.

Two titles certainly accelerated the building process as Swiatek lifted the Adelaide trophy and her first WTA 1000 in Rome. Her Foro Italico outing will be the stuff of tennis lore.

Then ranked no.15 and still only 19 years of age, Swiatek beat Alison Riske, Madison Keys, Barbora Krejcikova, Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff before obliterating Karolina Pliskova 6-0 6-0 in the final. Her performance over the tournament, and particularly on the last day, proved that Roland Garros was far from a fluke.

After Rome, she was a top 10 player and closed the season with her first appearance at the WTA Finals.

While last year contained a number of excellent turns at different stages of the campaign, it still couldn't prepare us for the 2022 version of Iga. We have just turned the calendar to April and Swiatek has lost three matches…and won 29.

Her scalps include four top 10 players and five major champions. The three losses were to former world no.1 Ash Barty and two inspired performances from Danielle Collins (Australian Open) and Jelena Ostapenko (Dubai).

Beyond those very few setbacks, Swiatek has only tasted victory and in some style.

She has won three WTA 1000 tournaments back-to-back in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. The Pole is only the fourth woman in history (and the youngest) to complete the Sunshine Swing after Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka.

Swiatek also has a habit of producing her best level at the most important times. All three finals this year were won in straight sets with a cumulative total of just 11 games lost. She even bageled Anett Kontaveit and Naomi Osaka because, why not?

While there has clearly been much work, both mental and physical, conducted off-court, her game between the lines is almost boundless at this point.

At times erratic, Swiatek's serve has become more secure and boasts impressive variety. She particularly irked Osaka in Miami with angled kick serves that dragged the Japanese out of court and disturbed the timing of her returns.

We know how great the forehand and backhand are, but what's worthy of mention is the margins she plays with. Swiatek is incredibly destructive from the back of the court but with consistent, steady strokes.

She does not have a winner-or-bust game style. Her strokes, exceptional movement and anticipation mean that she can decide to hang in rallies or attack when the moment arises.

Like all the greats, she can be unpredictable in the best possible sense. Now riding on the crest of a wave, the chief priority will surely be more major success.

This week marks the start of the clay swing and that has generally been her best surface, although she's now so good that all surfaces seem appetizing. Is another French Open final run on the cards? Or how about a real surge at Wimbledon (where she was a junior champion) and the US Open?

With motivation that seems marrow deep, as long as Swiatek stays fit, there are no limitations to what's possible for her on the tennis tour.

You can get a glimpse into the Pole's mindset from her post-Miami interview with WTA Insider:

I think the thing that made the whole difference was my attitude and my different mentality. Right now, I feel like I can play more fearless tennis and use all the stuff that I've been working on in practice and convert it into my match game…At the end, when I was stepping out on court I was pretty confident that I can dominate.

We may just have transitioned from the Age of Ash to the Age of Iga.

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