Iga Swiatek knows what happens at Wimbledon, this year or any year, will define whether she’ll really become the generational star some predict.
There are three types of players at the All England Club, those who love its manicured lawns, those who learn to love them and those from the ‘grass is for cows’ brigade, for who this time of year is an irritating interlude between the clay and hard court seasons.
Swiatek is certainly from camp two and, despite winning the junior title here five years ago, she is yet to progress beyond the fourth round.
Swiatek again arrives victorious from Roland-Garros but is sharing the limelight, and warm favouritism, with defending champion Elena Rybakina and Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka.
The world No.1 came through three matches on grass at Bad Homburg before withdrawing, last year she headed straight to Wimbledon from Paris, without any preparation on grass.
And she brushed aside China’s Zhu Lin 6-1 6-3 in her opening match, without looking like firing on all cylinders against what could have been a tricky opponent.
“I think this year is much more comfortable,” she said. “Winning the French Open again feels like I’ve reached my goal. I’ve had time to be happy about that and celebrate it, which I didn’t last year.”
Twelve months ago she arrived as the presumptive champion but saw a winning run of 37 matches and six titles ended in an error-strewn defeat by France’s Alizé Cornet. It was the only low point in a season that saw her claim two major titles, with just nine defeats in 76 matches.
Some feared the prospect of fallow years in women’s tennis, with no true star following the retirement of Serena Williams.
And then along came Swiatek, who won 15 consecutive matches against top ten rivals, a stat only eclipsed by Steff Graf and Martina Navratilova in the last four decades.
Her game, underpinned by a trademark thumping forehand, looks rock solid but even better is her mental approach, her relationship with psychologist Daria Abramowicz perhaps more crucial than her partnership with coach Tomas Wiktorowski.
“Last year was tough with the streak, it’s what everyone was talking about after Roland Garros and that was a lot on my shoulders,” added Swiatek. “I just felt rusty in terms of the focus tennis-wise.
“I just felt a lot more expectations, I think that’s the difference this year. I’ve had a good preparation and feel like I’ve got more weapons for grass.”
For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website