Women’s tennis has a new star, and her name is Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old Polish player’s ascent has been nothing short of stratospheric: After winning the French Open unseeded in 2020, when she was just 19 years old—making her the youngest women’s singles champion at Roland Garros since Monica Seles in 1992—her rise to the top entered turbo mode this year. With seemingly unstoppable momentum, she racked up wins everywhere from Qatar to Rome to Indian Wells to the French a second time, and following the retirement of Ashleigh Barty in March, she became the first Pole in history to reach the world number one ranking on the Hologic WTA Tour.
Despite her remarkable year and entering the tournament as the top seed, however, Swiatek’s success at this year’s U.S. Open was far from guaranteed. A rocky performance at Wimbledon saw her breathtaking 37-match winning streak come to an end in just the third round, while early exits at Toronto and Cincinnati in the lead-up—as well as Swiatek’s frustration with the balls used for women players at the tournament, which sparked a debate about the sport’s enduring double standards around gender—meant that her expectations were lowered.
“The conditions here not being my favorite helped, because I realized that I had already done so much this year, and I didn’t really have anything left to chase,” Swiatek tells Vogue the day after her victory, noting that she entered the competition feeling satisfied with her success this year, and assuming the same nothing-to-lose attitude that propelled her to her first Grand Slam win back in 2020. Yet she stormed through the rounds, eventually facing the Tunisian player Ons Jabeur in a thrilling final that saw Swiatek’s relentless drive and astonishing precision on full display.
Are there any players you particularly admire for their ability to balance their sporting careers with activism?
There are so many. I would say all of the greatest players have this kind of balance. But Serena is the one who comes to mind for me, because she played for so many years as a mother, and the business side of her career is so impressive also. Nobody has done it like her in women’s sports, so she’s an example for sure, and I really admire her for that.
Going back to your speech at the final, you mentioned that you’d had an amazing time in New York and had met lots of inspiring people while you were there. How would you sum up your experience over the past few weeks?
New York is a city I’m still trying to get used to. On the one hand, it’s really loud, and there’s a lot going on, so you can easily lose your focus. During the tournament, for sure, I wanted to try and be as calm about it as possible. I got to meet Lindsey Vonn which was pretty amazing, as she’s someone who I’ve admired for a long time, both for what she’s done in sports and how she’s behaved and presented herself outside of that. I got to meet Seal, which was cool. And I got a photo with Serena Williams. So yeah, even before the tournament began, I already felt like I had achieved something great. [Laughs.]