Iga Swiatek didn’t just walk onto Court Philippe Chatrier when her name was announced before her fourth-round match against top seed Simona Halep. She powered her way to her sideline chair like a woman on a mission. The Warsaw native is only 19, but at 5’9’’, with her long, strong legs, and her hat pulled low, she already cuts an impressive figure on a tennis court.
Over her ears were a pair of big black headphones. What was she listening to? Guns and Roses? AC/DC? Pink Floyd? Maybe Miles Davis? This Gen Z kid has Gen X musical tastes; she says she got them from her Polish coaches when she was younger.
“Each one of them gave me something new, and that’s why my taste is so like—I like every genre,” Swiatek said today. “I started to listen to jazz lately, even.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, I just wanted to have like bigger knowledge about something that is not tennis.”
It’s easy to see why Swiatek is a media darling, isn’t it? She has enthusiasm and an open mind. It was also easy to see today why so many of us have been high on her game for so long. Whatever Swiatek’s mission was when she walked on court against Halep, she accomplished it in a way that probably even she couldn’t have imagined. After losing to Halep last year at Roland Garros 6-1, 6-0, Swiatek turned the tables entirely and beat her 6-1, 6-2 in 70 minutes.
“It was a huge lesson for me,” Swiatek said of her blitz loss to Halep in 2019. “I knew I can, like, play differently and I can finally show my best tennis…It was kind of like motivating for me just to play better.”
Before her match with Halep last year, I thought Swiatek had the perfect game for the Romanian. Swiatek is tall, she takes the ball at the top of the bounce and creates openings, and she looks to move forward. The problem last year was that she didn’t hit the ball in the court. This year, obviously, she did.
Swiatek had 30 winners to just 12 for Halep, but she did more than just blast the ball. She hit drop-winners and volley winners, too. And when she missed, she didn’t back off. She kept forcing the action, and taking the racquet out of Halep’s hands.
“All the credit to her,” Halep said. “She played unbelievable today and she was everywhere and she hit all the balls in very strong, very powerful.”
The Pole toppled top seed Simona Halep, and the Italian defeated No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens. (Getty Images)
At the same time that Swiatek was striding onto Chatrier, Martina Trevisan was bouncing on her toes as she waited for the coin toss before her match with No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens. If Swiatek has a forceful energy, Trevisan’s is antic and hyper. It has to be; the Italian is only 5’3’’, so she needs to keep moving.
So far at Roland Garros, incredibly, it has worked for her. Trevisan is 26, ranked No. 159, and she had to win three qualifying matches to make the main draw. In the second round, she eked out a win over Coco Gauff 7-5 in the third. But rather than allowing herself to be a one-hit wonder, she’s used that win as a springboard for more upsets, first over No. 20 seed Maria Sakkari, and today over Bertens 6-4, 6-4.
Where Swiatek is the prodigy, Trevisan is the Cinderella, the journeywoman whose foot has fit the slipper, or the sneaker, for a week. Despite having been on tour for 10 years, she had never won a main-draw match at a major before this tournament. Her mother is a tennis coach, and her older brother, Matteo, was the No. 1 junior in the world in 2007, before he “stop,” as Martina said today.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and Trevisan’s lack of height has helped her invent a cunningly energetic playing style. Against Bertens, she hugged the baseline, hit her ground strokes to the corners without going for winners, and followed them up either with drop shots or stealth net attacks. Trevisan never stops moving, bouncing, and looking for openings. She was the far-less-powerful player against Bertens, but she was thoroughly in control.
“I play very good today,” Trevisan said. “I think the important thing is always my mentality, because match after match I got more confidence…So when I enter on the court, I enter to win the match without fail.”
Trevisan has struggled with anorexia, and this Roland Garros run must feel redemptive for her. She hasn’t stopped smiling all week or raising her fist all week.
“The message,” she said when she was asked what advice she would have for others with the condition, “is to focus on their dream and never give up on your life, on everything you want to do and you want to reach.”
Swiatek and Trevisan have reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time, and now they’ll face each other in match that likely no one predicted would happen. That’s obviously exciting for them, but I think it’s exciting for tennis fans, too. We know the sport needs stars, and we lost one in Halep today. But the sport also needs fresh energy. Swiatek, with her enthusiastic stride, and Trevisan, with her spirited bounce, have brought it to us. Each of them, as Iga might say, have given us something new.