WIMBLEDON, England — Iga Swiatek, the world No. 1 and the highest seed at Wimbledon, did one thing she had not executed in additional than 4 months Saturday. She misplaced a tennis match.
Swiatek, the 21-year-old two-time Grand Slam champion from Poland, misplaced within the third spherical to Alizé Cornet, the veteran Frenchwoman, 6-4, 6-2, ending her successful streak at 37 matches, one of many longest in fashionable girls’s tennis.
Swiatek, although, didn’t lose the match a lot as Cornet received it, emphatically even.
Enjoying with strapping on her left thigh, Cornet got here out swinging onerous, matching Swiatek’s energy and benefiting from the Polish champion’s discomfort on grass.
After shedding the primary set, Swiatek appeared to proper issues shortly, and surged to a 2-0 lead. However Cornet reeled off six straight video games with Swiatek shedding the ultimate level with a forehand into the center of the web.
Swiatek shook fingers together with her opponent, shortly stowed her rackets and headed for the exit of the No. 1 courtroom, the place she had been pushed to a few units by a relative unknown solely two days earlier.
She waved and gave a thumbs as much as the gang as she walked, then stopped to signal a sequence of autographs earlier than leaving.
The consequence had a well-known really feel for Cornet. In 2014 she beat Serena Williams, then the world No. 1 and the highest seed on the match, on the identical No. 1 courtroom.
That was comparatively early in her profession, although. Eight years later, in simply 93 minutes, she pulled off one other monumental upset and made the second week of a Grand Slam for the second time this yr. Then, fittingly, she in contrast herself to a different French favourite.
“Like good wine,” she advised the gang. “It ages properly.”
The afternoon was actually about Swiatek, although.
Anybody who has ever picked up a racket is aware of essentially the most fundamental adage of the sport — it’s onerous to win a tennis match however extremely simple to lose one. A couple of errant pictures, a nasty quarter-hour of serving, the briefest lapses of focus, and one set after which one other slips away in what appears like minutes. Hopelessness units in, and getting off the courtroom as shortly as doable can really feel like the very best and solely various, though it isn’t.
Hopelessness, nevertheless, was not what led to Swiatek’s demise Saturday. It was Cornet. A fearless opponent might be simply as deadly.
That’s simply a part of what made Swiatek’s accomplishments through the first half of this yr, in an period of ladies’s tennis when the competitors is intense from the primary spherical of practically each match, so exceptional.
Swiatek misplaced to Jelena Ostapenko, the free-swinging Latvian, on Feb. 16 within the quarterfinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Since then she has received six consecutive singles titles, together with her second French Open. She received three tournaments on the Masters 1,000 stage, slightly below the Grand Slams.
In March and April she received the so-called Sunshine Double — the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., and the Miami Open. Solely three different girls had executed that earlier than. On the French Open, she misplaced only one set. Different gamers talked about simply making an attempt to get previous the one-hour mark on the courtroom together with her. Many failed.
Swiatek, although, at all times figured the grass courtroom season may spell the tip of her streak. She is most comfy taking balls on the rise and utilizing her topspin and her energy to place opponents on the again foot from the very first moments of the match.
After she received the French Open in early June, she confronted the selection of enjoying a warm-up match or two to get extra comfy on her least favourite floor or taking a break and arriving at Wimbledon feeling refreshed. She selected to relaxation and hoped that her cresting confidence would assist her resolve the puzzle of grass. It didn’t.
In apply, her timing was off. In matches, balls skidded alongside the grass as an alternative of bouncing into her strike zone, taking her most potent weapon, that topspin energy, out of her quiver, forcing her to play extra conservatively.
On Saturday afternoon, she reverted to Plan A, making an attempt to hit Cornet off the courtroom. Unable to manage the ball, she dropped the primary three video games in opposition to a participant who actually believed she may do the factor that had not been executed in an extended whereas.
Swiatek rallied her means onto the scoreboard, however Cornet by no means gave up the benefit and completed off the primary set with an emphatic overhead. She then left the courtroom earlier than the beginning of the second set, leaving Swiatek to take a seat in her chair and ponder her destiny.
Within the second set, Swiatek went again to Plan A and surged to a 2-0 lead, however earlier than lengthy she had fallen out of her groove as soon as extra. On break level within the fifth recreation, Cornet jumped on a second serve and laced a forehand down the road. Swiatek dropped her chin and walked to her chair for the changeover.
From there, the one query was whether or not Cornet may keep stable sufficient to get throughout the end line. The reply got here shortly.
“Often once I’m coming again, I’ve some form of a plan, and I do know what to alter,” Swiatek mentioned. “Right here I didn’t know. I used to be confused. On grass courts all the things occurs so shortly.”
Cornet received the following three video games and 12 of the ultimate 14 factors.
“I didn’t tank it, however I simply didn’t know what to do,” Swiatek mentioned.
Swiatek will get a bit extra relaxation now. Earlier than lengthy, although, she is going to journey to North America for the onerous courtroom season. Clay nonetheless reigns in her thoughts, however after she received the Miami Open in April, two weeks after successful Indian Wells, she mentioned onerous courts had been a really very shut second.
One other streak might be within the offing. Few can be shocked. And if not, she is going to at all times have 37.