While still the favourite for the title, the air of invincibility around Iga Swiatek has definitely faded following the end of her 37 match winning streak. She will begin her chase for a third slam against Jasmine Paolini, looking to extend the head to head to 2-0 against the Italian, having beat her on the ITF tour during the early stages of her pro career.
Since Wimbledon, Swiatek has gone 4-3 having found it tough against the style of player she was winning comfortably against in the period of her winning streak. Big hitters Caroline Garcia, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Madison Keys all took advantage of the Pole on an off-day, something that may be cause for concern against similarly opponents this fortnight. “When I came here, it was easier for me to kind of chill out maybe because I already lost two matches, and now I can really lower my expectations and just focus on improving and on tennis. It’s easier for me to kind of chill out here.” she said about her recent struggles.
Pigeonholed as a clay courter in large part down to her status as a diminutive counterpuncher, Paolini has actually developed well over the past year and picked up some good results on hard courts and has her only WTA title on the surface – Portoroz. She is still stronger on clay but has the capability to defeat error prone big hitters on occasion.
Even with Swiatek nowhere near her best currently, this definitely doesn’t look the kind of match where the top seed could slip up. The Paolini serve is likely to be under threat from the beginning and this one could be over quickly if the Pole is returning at her best. Sloane Stephens is an interesting potential opponent in round two given the pair played a tight one that Swiatek edged in straights a few weeks back in Cincinnati.
Prediction – Iga Swiatek in straight sets