‘It’s double digits’: just how many French Opens can Iga Swiatek win?

<span>Chris Evert, the seven-times French Open singles champion, presented Iga Swiatek with the trophy on Saturday.</span><span>Photograph: Robert Prange/Getty Images</span>
Chris Evert, the seven-times French Open singles champion, presented Iga Swiatek with the trophy on Saturday.Photograph: Robert Prange/Getty Images

When Iga Swiatek discusses the incredible success she continues to build at such a young age, the 23-year-old usually stresses the discipline and commitment that have driven her throughout her journey so far. She is always determined to stay in the moment, never allowing her mind to stray too far ahead.

It was unsurprising, then, that as she spoke casually with a handful of journalists in a quiet corner of a small room inside Court Philippe-Chatrier on Saturday night, four hours after defeating Jasmine Paolini to lift her fourth French Open title, Swiatek had not spent much time thinking about whether she could finish her career with 10 or more titles in Paris.

Related: Iga Swiatek eases past Jasmine Paolini to win third consecutive French Open

“Even being here and winning five slams seems pretty surreal,” the world No 1 says. “I would have never expected it when I was younger. Getting to 10 here seems like, still, a long shot. I’ll for sure work for it and you can expect that I’ll do my best to become better and better every year.”

What Swiatek has already achieved is incredible enough. The Pole has now won three consecutive French Open titles and four of the past five, and she is the youngest woman to win four French Opens. Her record at Roland Garros is now 35-2 (95%) and her general record on clay is similarly imperious.

In standard clay conditions – outdoors and close to sea level – nobody in the world has consistently challenged Swiatek since her first French Open title in 2020. She has positioned herself well to continue enjoying success in Paris and perhaps one day even to usurp Chris Evert, the seven-time champion, as winner of the most women’s singles titles in Paris, which is something the American herself strongly believes will come to pass at some stage.

“When I put my head under the pillow I’m worried about Iga,” Evert said jokingly while speaking on Eurosport. “I think Iga will end up on double digits. I don’t just think she will beat my record here – I think it’s double digits.” The 69-year-old took part in the trophy presentation on Saturday, along with Martina Navratilova.

Over the past few decades, the top players have evolved to conduct their business with new levels of professionalism and physical preparation, allowing them to preserve their bodies for longer. The greatest players in the world have never enjoyed longer careers.

Still, it is difficult to say exactly where Swiatek will end up. There are so many variables over the course of a tennis career and so many potential obstacles that could direct a player down a different path. All‑time great champions such as Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer made it seem easy to maintain motivation and mental stamina for such long periods. But there are also players such as the seven-time grand slam champion Justine Henin, who was so mentally drained that she retired at the age of 25.

“Sometimes I have the feeling that: ‘Oh my God, I’m going to play until I’m 28 and I’m gonna be done,’” Swiatek says. “But sometimes I’m like: ‘Oh my God, I love tennis, I’m going to play until I die.’ So, honestly, I don’t have any plans yet. I don’t think it makes sense for me to plan anything.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be the kind of player that will play till the end if my body allows or stop when I feel like: ‘I’m satisfied. Let’s move on.’ I was watching the legends’ tournament and I was like: ‘Am I actually gonna have energy to come back to play legends or not?’ I don’t even know stuff like that, so how can I know when I’m going to be done?”

What is clear is that Swiatek is still developing and far from complete. Her success this year has been underscored by her improvements to her serve, with the Pole shortening and simplifying her motion in the off-season.

Previously a weakness, Swiatek’s serve now affords her free points under pressure, and in Paris she cranked up her first serve to a career-best speed of 198km/h (123mph).

After thoroughly dismantling Paolini, playing a near flawless match, a glimpse into Swiatek’s perfectionist mindset and her determination to improve came in the one point that stuck in her mind. “You saw my one volley today that was supposed to [land] in but it went out,” she says. “This will for sure stay in my head and I don’t need to make any notes on that because I know I’m going to work to get that forehand volley in next time. I just want to be a better player to improve in stuff where I don’t feel 100% confident.”

Since Swiatek left home in the middle of April for Switzerland to play in the Billie Jean King Cup on hard courts in Biel, she has been on an astounding run of victories. Having started the road trip wondering how on earth she was even going to survive, Swiatek now leaves Paris having swept Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros with a 19-match winning sequence, further cementing her status as one of the great champions of this generation.

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