Wimbledon: Swiatek 'pretty overwhelmed' to see Serena back in SW19

By Sports Desk June 25, 2022

Serena Williams' presence at Wimbledon has left world number one Iga Swiatek "pretty overwhelmed".

Williams is making her long-awaited return to action at the All England Club, as the 40-year-old takes another shot at matching Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam victories.

The American has played only two competitive matches – both alongside Ons Jabeur in the doubles at the Eastbourne International – since she sustained a hamstring tear at last year's Wimbledon, but is back on a wildcard.

Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach Wimbledon's women's singles final when she lost to Simona Halep. Six years ago, she was the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber, although it seems a long shot for her to be challenging for honours this time around.

That is in part due to the remarkable form of top seed Swiatek, who heads to SW19 on the back of a 35-match winning streak that she is aiming to extend.

The Pole was not born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998, but she was the junior champion at the All England Club in 2018 and has since won the French Open twice. She is aiming to become the first woman since Kerber in 2016 to win two singles slams in the same season.

Yet Swiatek remains in awe of Williams.

"I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed," said Swiatek in a news conference on Saturday.

"I didn't know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don't know her team. It was pretty weird.

"But just seeing her around is great because she's such a legend, there's nobody that has done so much in tennis.

"I'm pretty sure that she's going to be in good shape because she has so much experience coming back from breaks or just playing in grand slams. I think she can use it."

Swiatek has never progressed past the fourth round of the singles at Wimbledon and will be making her first appearance of the season on grass when she takes on Jana Fett on Tuesday.

"Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass," she said. "Last year for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn't know what to expect.

"Then match by match I realised maybe I can do more and more.

"I didn't have a lot of time to prepare. But I'm just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realise that I can play without any expectations."

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    Iga Swiatek fought off a Karolina Muchova comeback to complete a hat-trick of French Open titles.

    The 22-year-old Pole cemented her status as the best female player in the world, particularly on clay, with her third title in four years at Roland Garros.

    But this was by some distance the hardest of her grand slam finals, with unseeded Czech Muchova battling back from a set and 3-0 down to force a decider.

    Muchova twice led by a break in that but Swiatek refused to be beaten, eventually prevailing 6-2 5-7 6-4 after two hours and 46 minutes and crouching down on the clay in tears.

    She is the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to successfully defend her title on the Paris clay and joins Naomi Osaka on four grand slam titles – veteran Venus Williams with seven is the only active player to hold more.

    Swiatek joins Osaka and Monica Seles, meanwhile, as the only women in the open era to win each of their first four slam finals.

    Muchova, a 26-year-old ranked 43, produced the performance of her life to beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals, saving a match point and fighting back from 5-2 down in the deciding set.

    But Swiatek had both the experience and a formidable record in finals to bolster her confidence, while Muchova was through to this stage for the first time.

    She made a very nervous start and it appeared Swiatek may come up against little resistance but Muchova got on the board in the fourth game and the rest of the first set was competitive.

    The Czech showcased the variety she has in her game against Sabalenka, keeping the Australian Open champion off balance with her court craft and willingness to come to the net, and she produced some standout moments here.

    There were just too many unforced errors, though, while Swiatek was able to keep her favoured position in the middle of the baseline and dictate with her heavy forehand.

    A second break of serve gave Swiatek the opening set, making her the first player, male or female, to win their first seven sets in grand slam finals.

    When she moved 3-0 ahead again in the second, it seemed number eight was not far away, but Muchova dug in and broke Swiatek for the first time in the fifth game with a brilliant running forehand.

    The majority of the crowd was willing her to extend Swiatek further and suddenly it was the Pole feeling the tension, with a double fault handing Muchova the chance to serve for the set.

    She could not take it but another shaky game from Swiatek gave her a second chance and this time she made it over the line, clinching her third set point after a stunning all-court rally.

    Muchova has struggled badly with injuries during her career and it was only last year that doctors told her she might have to give up the game.

    She rode her momentum at the start of the decider by moving into a 2-0 lead as Swiatek threatened to implode but the 22-year-old pulled herself together quickly to level.

    They exchanged breaks again in the seventh and eighth games, with Muchova unable to pull away, and Swiatek regained the ascendancy when she fought off another break point to hold for 5-4.

    The pressure of serving to stay in the contest proved too much for Muchova, who made three errors before double-faulting on match point in a cruel end to an absorbing final.

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    Murray held to love to leave Thompson serving to stay in the set, which he eventually did after fending off a fightback having been 40-15 ahead.

    Murray faced more pressure in an important hold at 6-5 and Thompson then held to love to force a tie-break.

    Murray took a 2-0 lead with an early mini-break and moved 4-1 up after stretching to make a wide return.

    Thompson, though, broke back to level at 4-4 after a lengthy rally.

    As in previous matches, Murray again gave himself a stern talking-to, which helped bring up a set point at 6-5 when Thompson returned into the net and he took advantage by firing down an ace.

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    “It was nice to get through in straight sets today,” Murray said in his court-side interview broadcast by the LTA.

    “It was a very tight first set then in the second I improved a bit, started hitting the ball a bit better in the back of the court, so hopefully I can continue that tomorrow in the final.

    “Jordan is a top grass-court player. He won here last year and made the finals in Nottingham, so he has had some good wins on this surface. I expected a tough one – I definitely got that.

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    “It has been a while since I won a tournament on home soil and hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”

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    Since inserting himself into the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal duopoly, Djokovic has been playing catch-up, but victory over Casper Ruud would see him out on his own as the most successful men’s singles player ever.

    And, with Federer retired and Nadal heading in the same direction, it would appear a decisive move.

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    The Serbian arrived in Paris after a less-than-stellar clay-court season but has made no secret of the fact it is the slams that keep him out there and he has once again risen to the occasion when it matters.

    After outlasting a cramping Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals to win a 20th consecutive grand slam match, Djokovic said: “I have said it many times this year during the clay season that Roland Garros is where I want to peak on clay, where I want to play my best tennis.

    “So I put myself in another really ideal position to win a grand slam. That’s basically what still drives me when I wake up in the morning and think about the season and think about things I want to achieve.

    “I won the first grand slam this year and now I’m in the finals of a second one, so I couldn’t ask for more than that.

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    “I’ve been very fortunate that most of the matches in tournaments I’ve played in the last few years, there is history on the line. I like the feeling. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to make history of the sport that I truly love and that has given me so much.

    “The motivation is very high, as you can imagine. There is one more to go, and hopefully I’ll get my hands on the trophy.”

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    “It just feels great to be back. I didn’t think or necessarily believe in the beginning of the tournament that I was going to be in the final.”

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