Iga Swiatek in 2022 had a year in tennis to remember. This year though she has really come out guns blazing. Post-Australian Open, she has won more sets 6-1 or 6-0 than probably anybody in recent history. After one of the most dominant seasons since Serena left her prime in 2015, many questions had also been raised as to why Iga had not become the face for women’s sport in 2022.
What is it truly going to take for Iga to get the international recognition of her colleagues? If she was to win the French Open this year in May , she will have tied Naomi Osaka’s grand slam tally. She already has almost 3 times as many masters 1000 wins as Osaka. Swiatek has also been world number 1 for 47 weeks, almost double compared to Osaka’s tally at the top spot of the women’s world ranking. In February, Iga Swiatek also leapfrogged Justine Henin and Lindsay Davenport’s streaks of consecutive weeks at world number 1. In a fortnight’s time, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep (47) will be overtaken. Naomi Osaka had already become a household name by her second major win (Australian Open 2019). Iga, for some strange reason, is yet to experience even a fraction of the international exposure that Osaka had up to 2 years ago.
You would have to go back a long long way to remember a world number 1 and 3 time major champion who was virtually unknown to the majority of the world. Perhaps the closest example would be Justine Henin. Henin was an extraordinary tennis player from Belgium, who won the French Open more times than anybody in the last 25 years. It is hard to imagine that a lack of results is what is holding Iga back from international stardom. Iga has accomplished more in 2022 than any woman besides Serena Williams back in 2015. Iga’s 2022 has easily been the most dominant 12 months stretch we have witnessed since the days of Serena winning multiple grand slams in a season (the last of which happened in 2015).
What is also quite odd is that Iga Swiatek speaks perfect English. There is certainly no language barrier holding her back from marketability. Therefore the only remaining possibility must be entertained: has Iga Swiatek become a victim of advertising bias? Is Iga Swiatek not being advertised because corporate sponsors would prefer to spend money on someone from the UK (Emma Raducanu) or who grew up in the US (Osaka)? This could explain why Ash Barty also did not gain much international attention- despite winning last year’s Australian Open and spending the 10th longest amount of time at number in history.
However, this cannot be the full story. There is a clear reason that Iga Swiatek is not being marketed the same way as her colleagues- and the defence of Iga having a ‘lack of results’ is clearly being used to disguise a more sinister explanation. What that explanation is? The public will very soon catch on and realise, but many already have their suspicions as to why that is. Throughout history, Poland has produced some of the most recognisable faces in the world. Marie Curie in science and Pope John Paul II were both Polish. Will Iga Swiatek become the most recognisable Pole in recent history- the way that Roger Federer is known internationally amongst the general world population? Federer, however, was a male- and there seems to be a misogynistic double standard criteria required for female athletes to be marketed. However- such a conclusion is not guaranteed. Let’s hope this year’s French Open will see a change in fortune for one of the most promising tennis players in recent memory.
All in all, Is Iga Świątek the most dominant women’s tennis player since Serena Williams?