Badly embarked for the first time of the fortnight, after having yielded the first round to the young Chinese Qinwen Zheng, Monday, May 30 in the round of 16, Iga Swiatek made a vacuum by “[singing] in his head”. One song, and it starts again. The Pole then unrolled her tennis to overthrow her opponent and continue her flawless run in the Roland-Garros tournament.

“Actually, I always sing something. But, there, I changed the song,” revealed the player after her victory. She explained that she was able to reverse the trend when she realized that focusing on the technical aspects “didn’t work” and that she was “more and more tense”. The solution came courtesy of singer Dua Lipa: a “guilty pleasure” for this old-school rock lover. She didn’t specify which song by the British pop star came to mind, but, given how she’s been flying over the women’s circuit, it could be Levitating.

At just 21 years old (she celebrated them on May 31), Iga Swiatek must play, on Saturday June 4, against the American Cori Gauff, her second final at Roland-Garros. But, unlike her coronation in the fall of 2020 – pandemic linked to Covid-19 obliges – where the young Polish woman had tumbled into the big leagues without warning (starting the tournament in 54th place in the world), it is in favorite that she landed at the end of May in Paris.

“I feel a lot taller than two years ago,” she says. From the top of his 1.76 meter, Iga Swiatek now has a different stature. She became world number 1 in the spring, after Australian Ashleigh Barty chose to put the rackets away (at age 25). “The world has changed for me,” smiled the player at the start of the tournament. People treat me differently because of this ranking, but I’m still the same player and the same person. »

“Mental Approach”

In a women’s circuit accustomed to shooting stars, where no other player shines with her consistency (since 2017, fourteen different winners have won the twenty Grand Slam titles at stake), Iga Swiatek could become the headliner. “She has a lot in her to establish herself as world number 1 and win other Grand Slams, assures former player Justine Hénin, now a consultant for France Télévisions, interviewed before the tournament. She is probably the most consistent and stable of the current players in terms of effort and work in her development. »

The Belgian with seven major titles does not get carried away, however, acknowledging that she believed that Naomi Osaka was going to impose herself as “boss of the circuit” last year, before the Japanese, overwhelmed by pressure, reveals “to have gone through long periods of depression.

Mental health, Iga Swiatek has integrated it into his preparation since the start of his – young – career. Since 2019, the player has been accompanied on a daily basis by a sports psychologist, her compatriot Daria Abramowicz. “She knows me well. She knows how to guide me to the right solution to relax, ”says Iga Swiatek, about the one who acts as a mental trainer. With her, the Warsaw woman has “worked a lot to change [her] mental approach”.

The pressure has never been so strong on the shoulders of the player. Thursday, by defeating the Russian Daria Kasatkina in the semi-finals (6-2, 6-1), Iga Swiatek chained a 34th victory in a row on the WTA circuit. Since February 22, the young Pole has won all the tournaments she has taken part in. In the 21st century, only the American Venus Williams has signed a superior series (35, in 2000). “For me, it is obvious that this series will stop,” insists the player, claiming to have arrived in Paris “without knowing what [to] expect and without any particular objective”.

For a year, Iga Swiatek has been working hard to establish herself at the top of world tennis. In addition to a change of coach in the offseason, the Polish advances as “liberated”. “This season, it’s as if everything clicked perfectly, physically, on my game and my mental, she observes. Last year, I was doing a lot, but I was still gaining experience. Now I use it to make everything work. The undisputed world number 1, Iga Swiatek has now proven to herself that she “could handle it”. And keep looking higher: “I still have a lot of room for improvement. »

Led Zeppelin, AC/DC et Guns N’Roses

Not sure the competition is happy about it. On the eve of the tournament, Iga Swiatek sneaked into the press conference of the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, coming to recover her misplaced water bottle in the room. “I was just asked how to beat you. You could tell them, because I couldn’t find an answer, “inquired the world number 6, sent by the Pole in the final of the Masters 1000 in Rome a week earlier. “Put something in there,” Swiatek suggests to everyone’s hilarity, gesturing to his canteen. Eliminated in the first round of the tournament, of which she was one of the potential favorites, Ons Jabeur will not have had the opportunity to test the advice. Like her, all the players on the circuit break their teeth on the Swiatek equation.

Taking advantage of a respite of forty-eight hours between her first two laps, Iga Swiatek went to discover the Palace of Versailles and its gardens. “I really like math. And at Versailles, everything is so symmetrical,” enthused the player, after playing in the second round against American Alison Riske. If she assumes, in training, to like to achieve “the same number of crossed forehands and crossed backhands”, this absolute fan of Rafael Nadal is not yet at the point of meticulously aligning her bottles in front of her at each change of side, as does the Majorcan.

Saturday, when it’s time to enter the ocher of the Philippe-Chatrier court to play her second final in three years – against the even youngest American Cori Gauff, 18 -, Iga Swiatek will not deviate from her routine. . Her headphones on her ears, she will rise in pressure to the sound of one of the three groups that have always accompanied her: Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Guns N’Roses.

“Music allows me to occupy my mind and relax before the game,” she says. But I also need something energetic, so these bands are perfect. Having reached the top of her sport, her trajectory could evoke the ascent of a Stairway to heaven – the “stairway to paradise”, sung by Led Zeppelin. “In a way, it is…but it’s not a song I listen to,” the player slices. Who will keep secret the title that she will sing in her head to punctuate her final.

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