First among equals

Nine minutes short of two hours was all it took for Iga Swiatek to separate herself from the competition in yet another tour stop this year. She claimed her seventh victory of the season yesterday, and it was arguably her finest — coming off the last major event of 2022. And it isn’t simply because she’s most comfortable on red clay and not acrylic. As she has publicly admitted, the United States Open isn’t one of her favorites given on- and off-court concerns. “For sure, this tournament was really challenging — also, because it’s New York. It’s so loud. It’s so crazy”

To be sure, Swiatek isn’t merely trying to be magnanimous in triumph. She did encounter hurdles en route to the awarding ceremony, foremost among them a tough Round-of-16 set-to that had her stretched to three sets. It was the first time she traded groundstrokes with Jule Niemeier, and she found herself grasping for form in the midst of the uncertainty. Even the second set, which she won 6-4, she struggled with consistency, especially on serve. Once she settled down, however, she managed to stamp her class — and definitively, handing her opponent a bagel for good measure.

Needless to say, Swiatek is World Number One for a reason. She may have inherited the spot following the retirement of erstwhile pacesetter Ashleigh Barty, but she has, since then, most definitely shown she deserves it. Among her extraordinary exploits is a ridiculous 37-match win streak — a feat not even living legend Serena Williams could accomplish — highlighted by a second French Open crown. And as she made her way to the podium of the US Tennis Association National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, she cemented her status as first among equals.

Certainly, Swiatek is poised for yet another run. She had a letdown after Roland Garros, but her extreme coverage and chasedown style enables her to overcome any perceived frailties in other surfaces. If anything, it’s precisely what her valedictory in the US Open underscored. The future is brighter. The stage is set, the stage is hers.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.