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No grass for Iga

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Iga Swiatek tried everything in her third round set-to against Yulia Putintseva yesterday. She even took a long break between the second and third sets in an effort to regain the confidence that enabled her to take the opener in nine games. En route to losing the decider 6-2, however, it was clear that the comfort and comfortability that she sought stayed elusive until the end. And as she exited No. 1 Court, she could not help but rue the missed opportunity. Once again, she proved unable to conquer Wimbledon.

Indeed, Swiatek has been all but dominant on the women’s tour. Before yesterday’s setback, she had in her pocket an impressive 21-match victory run that underscored her ascendancy in the sport. That said, Wimbledon has been her lone black mark; yesterday’s defeat made her just the second top seed in history to lose multiple times before the fourth round. Ironically, her near-invincible status on clay somewhat prevents her from being better. Her successes at the French Open — with four championships and counting — provide her with an abrupt transition to the premier tournament on grass.

Swiatek isn’t complaining, to be sure. At 23, she has established herself as first among equals. Not for nothing has she been on top of the rankings for a whopping 110 weeks, and such is her lead over second-ranked Coco Gauff that she will not be dethroned despite her early exit from the All England Club. Still, she knows she will need to improve on her spotty Grand Slam record outside of Roland Garros and the United States Open if she is to be counted among the all-time greats.

Whether Swiatek will be compelled to take in some practice time on grass next year is anybody’s guess. Based on her pronouncements, she’s loath to risk injury by tightening her schedule in the three weeks that separate the French Open and Wimbledon. For now, she’s content to see the four Coupe Suzanne Lenglens on her mantel. At some point, though, she will want them to be accompanied by the Venus Rosewater Dish. Then, and only then, can she truly say she has arrived.

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.

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