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Iga Swiatek’s déjà vu in Doha: new title, records and fresh energy

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DOHA – The world number one once again drove the steamroller, and did so by taking away a record held by Chris Evert for more than four decades: “Sorry, Chris”.

At the WTA 500 in Doha, Iga Swiatek spent less than three hours of her time on court in the whole week to win her first title of the year, capped by a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Jessica Pegula in the final.

And the unprecedented record: she lost only five games on her way to the title. More dominant than Evert in 1981, when the North American legend lost seven games at Lugano, Switzerland.

Although Evert lost seven games, two more than the Polish player in the Middle East because she had a first-round bye and took advantage of Belinda Bencic’s walkover in the quarterfinals. Although with the Qatari golden falcon trophy she says she doesn’t really care how many games she loses, because she only cares about the ones she wins, Iga Swiatek delivers a couple of important messages.

The first one: her confidence is back to the top and she is already the same tennis player who swept all before her in 2022 after a few bumps. This time, with lower expectations, though. In January, Swiatek did not achieved what everyone (and perhaps herself too) expected from Australia. She left empty-handed from Melbourne with defeat to the solid Elena Rybakina. Not that an unrecognizable Swiatek was seen there, but everyone’s ultra favorite didn’t make the final stages.

“I really used the time after the Australian Open to reset. I took a new approach with less expectations and more focus on technique. Now I don’t overthink that every practice will influence my game. I’m relaxed off the court and on the court I feel more free,” she told reporters.

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The second one: you can beat her once, not twice.

Frances Tiafoe celebrated at the United Cup. “It makes me proud to see Jessica give an absolute class to the number one ” he said in Sydney after her partner in the mixed team tennis competition surprisingly swept Swiatek, leaving her in tears. But the two-time Roland Garros champion is not there for any opponent to have positive streaks with her. In the Doha final she took particular care of that.

“In Sydney she (Pegula) had a very clean performance. But on the other hand, we (the Polish team) were traveling and the United Cup was a very difficult tournament to save your energy, because when you were sitting on the bench, you were cheering all the time for your team and there were a lot of things off the court that influenced your game. You were constantly giving your energy to the team. I’m not used to that,” she confessed.

It was precisely in a tournament with a brutal draw that she grabbed her first 2023 title with the most crushing numbers in forty-two years. An event that brought together the best, in a week when the women’s tennis calendar only offers the Qatar event.

Thus, several stars were left without playing this week (for example, the Australian Ajla Tomlajovic and French Alizé Cornet could’t enter the draw at the beggining; Rybakina would have had to play qualifiers) and it is Swiatek who takes the opportunity to ask for more options despite its privileged position: “All matches are difficult and intense, and that’s fine, but on the other hand that shows you that we could have more variety and against with at least another tournament in another city. A lot of players can’t play, earn money.”

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Doha suits her. A year ago she won the title, kicking off one of the longest winning streaks in history, which she extended for 37 matches until Wimbledon. The physical freshness she rediscovered this week, the sharpness of his strokes, the speed of his footwork and his renewed mentality give reason to believe that the incredible Iga Swiatek is coming again.

Clearly the numbers may not be repeated, and she may not be as extremely dominant this season. The bar was set too high by herself. But the Polish is also responsible for this déjà vu. This has already happened.

 

MAIN PHOTO : SAMER ALREJJAL // DOHA WTA 500

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