Mastering the mind games helped Swiatek reach perfection in Paris
Cochin Herald|November - December 2020
If a graphic example were needed of the internal psychological warfare tennis players often wage in their own minds, the first hour of Dominic Thiem's US Open final against Alexander Zverev would be a good place to start.

Stifled by nerves and stress, the dazed Austrian stylist looked as though his feet were trapped in cement and he was wielding a tree trunk rather than a tennis racket.

Remarkably, having lost the opening two sets, he shed the mental demons in the nick of time to come back and win a nerve-jangling final in which Zverev finally buckled under pressure.

It was exhausting just watching Thiem finally crawl over the line to a maiden Grand Slam title.

A few weeks later in Paris, Poland's 19-year-old Iga Swiatek made the same life-changing breakthrough look as demanding as a stroll in the park as she breezed past Sofia Kenin.

Swiatek free-wheeled her way to becoming the youngest French Open women's winner for 28 years, going through the fortnight without dropping a set.

The contrast between her victory and Thiem's was stark, although both were equally admirable.

Tennis, with it's scoring system, thinking time and technical difficulty, is arguably the most psychological of all sports. Which is why Swiatek's mastery of her mind stood out.

I don't think it's possible to become a champion without understanding the psychology of tennis because it's an unusual sport, Swiatek said.

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