Girl power
FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - October 16, 2020 - 12:00am

With Wimbledon cancelled, we had seen the last of the Grand Slam events for the year when the 2020 French Open ended last week. As expected, Rafael Nadal continued his dominance and mastery of the clay courts, winning his 17th Roland Garros title, tying Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slams. It was Nadal’s 100th win at RG and 999th career match wins. But we won’t be talking about Rafa but of two teenagers who made waves in the tournament. 

Iga Natalia Swiatek, becomes the first ever Polish Grand Slam singles champion at 19-years old, the youngest women’s singles champion since Monica Seles, who at 16-years old, also won the French Open in 1990. She also became the youngest singles champion at the French Open since Rafa in 2005 and the lowest ranked French Open champion in the history of the WTA.

Her father Tomasz was an Olympic rower who competed at Seoul 1988, her mother Dorota is a doctor. She has an elder sister Agata, who briefly played in the ITF Junior circuit but had given up the sport due to injury issues.

At 13, Iga joined the Junior Circuit in 2015 and a year later had her Grand Slam debut at the French Open, reaching the quarters in both singles and doubles. She turned pro the same year, competing in the ITF Women’s Circuit until the end of 2018.  She won all seven ITF singles finals reached, the first thee at the age of 15. 

She joined the WTA Tour in 2019 and steadily improved her ranking. At this year’s Australian Open, Iga reached the fourth round prior to the tour being stopped due to the pandemic. At the US Open, she reached the third round, losing to Viktoria Azarenka.  She was ranked #54 entering the French Open and after winning, is now ranked #17 in the world.

In the Juniors tournament, Alexandra Maniego Eala, 15, is currently the Australian Open girls doubles champion. Like Swiatek, she had a sporting pedigree as her mom Rizza was a swimmer and won a bronze in the 100-m backstroke at the 1985 SEA Games representing the country. Brother Micheal also plays tennis for Penn State U.

Joining the premier tennis tournament Les Petit As in France in 2018, Alex won the Under-14 tournament. She made her junior Grand Slam debut at the 2019 US Open. After reaching the girls’ singles semis at the recent French Open, she improved her ITF Junior Circuit ranking to number 2.

The traditional powers of women’s tennis are slowly fading and the rising of the young guns assures us that unlike some other sports, tennis is global in reach. And what can be more global than with the entry of Swiatek joining the ranks of Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, Sofia Kenin Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic. Eala, sooner or later will jump into the big stage.

Major sporting tournaments are still dependent on the current situation but at least some had been successfully held and completed. And yes, finally, the tied series between some horror-ables at Congress had a winner and as always, we don’t share in their victory.

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