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Can Iga Świątek Keep Her Winning Streak Going At Wimbledon?

When Iga ÅšwiÄÂ…tek won her second French Open this month, she also won her 35th consecutive match, tying Venus Williams’s run in 2000. This week, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek will aim to keep her streak going at Wimbledon, where she is the top seed.

ÅšwiÄÂ…tek is enjoying one of the best runs in WTA history. Earlier this year, she became the youngest player to win Indian Wells and Miami in the same season.

But how does ÅšwiÄÂ…tek’s sublime stretch compare with the streaks of other greats in the sport, such as Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf?

In some ways, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek hasn’t even come close to matching the best. For instance, in 1984, Navratilova won 74 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak in women’s tennis in the Open era.

But in other ways, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek has been just as dominant as the icons she’s chasing. She’s already surpassed Serena Williams’s streak of 34 matches from 2013, and ÅšwiÄÂ…tek’s recent dominance rivals anyone in the sport’s history.

“Having that 35th win and kind of doing something more than Serena did, it’s something special. Because I always wanted to … have some kind of a record. In tennis, it’s pretty hard after Serena’s career,” ÅšwiÄÂ…tek said. “The hardest thing is like not letting yourself think about that and overanalyze.”

In some of her matches, she’s had little time to think because they’ve ended so quickly. ÅšwiÄÂ…tek has won 15 6-0 sets since her winning streak began in Doha, Qatar, in February. Compared with the first 35 matches of the two best women’s tennis winning streaks in the Open era, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek’s tally of 6-0 sets is superior.

Graf won 66 consecutive matches in a streak that spanned 1989-90 and compiled 13 6-0 sets in the first 35 matches of her streak. In the first 35 wins of her longest streak, Navratilova won seven 6-0 sets.

In other ways, though, both Navratilova and Graf outdid ÅšwiÄÂ…tek. Navratilova and Graf won almost 96 percent of their sets in the first 35 matches of their streaks. In her streak, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek has won 92 percent of her sets.

Of the three streaks, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek has the second-highest winning percentage of games. She has won 71 percent of the 638 games she’s played, compared with Navratilova, who won slightly less than 71 percent of 617 games. Graf leads the trio, having won nearly 77 percent of 571 games during the first 35 matches of her streak.

Pam Shriver, the 1978 U.S. Open singles finalist and 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, isn’t surprised that ÅšwiÄÂ…tek’s stats are among the best of all time. She thought as much while watching ÅšwiÄÂ…tek drop only one set en route to her second Grand Slam title earlier this month.

“It definitely reminded me of the dominance of the best win streaks of women’s tennis history,” Shriver told me. “It’s been really impressive. It’s not like she’s lucked out.”

Shriver knows greatness and winning streaks well. In singles, she played Navratilova 43 times and Graf 12. In doubles, 20 of Shriver’s 22 major titles were won with Navratilova. And during Navratilova’s 74-match win streak, Shriver lost to her twice, including a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 defeat just before the 1984 U.S. Open.

Shriver sees similarities between the games of the three champions. All three are superb movers and quickly put their opponent on defense, Shriver said. ÅšwiÄÂ…tek uses her forehand, as did Graf, whereas Navratilova relied on her suffocating serve-and-volley style.

The trio also boasts a strong sense of belief, Shriver said. ÅšwiÄÂ…tek travels with a psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.

What’s surprising to Shriver is how ÅšwiÄÂ…tek played before her winning streak. In her previous 35 matches, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek was a pedestrian 22-13, whereas Navratilova and Graf dominated. Navratilova went 34-1; Graf, 33-2.

“Something clicked her into a new gear,” Shriver said. “[T]hose numbers are interesting and makes you wonder … if Iga [is] just having one of those amazing great streaks and will settle back into 22-13 type play or if her elevated level will last over time like Martina and Steffi’s did.”

The most important statistic of any winning streak, of course, is its final number. How long can the player withstand the mounting pressure and constant chatter accompanying a lengthy streak?

At Wimbledon, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek can add seven more wins to her total. She has never reached past the fourth round at the grass-court major championship. Still, she is far and away the betting favorite to push her streak to 42 matches and celebrate her third Grand Slam title. After that, to catch Navratilova, ÅšwiÄÂ…tek will have only 32 matches to go.

Jonathon Braden is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., who has covered tennis for the past 10 years.


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