Iga Świątek Doesn’t Need to Change for Anyone Tennis Sake Either Self

As we learn that the Cincy event is staying in southern Ohio …

Does tennis have an Iga Świątek problem? What do I mean by this? Great player, but does she move the needle? It doesn’t seem that way. What does she need to do differently (for the sake of tennis if not for her own sake)?

Jeff, Brooklyn


• The quick-and-dirty answer: She is doing great. Obviously, Jeff is not alone here. A prevailing and often-whispered assessment goes something like this: Świątek is an extraordinary player and could win double-digit majors before she is done. But what a pity she is not more marketable.

I don’t get it. The extraordinary player is beyond dispute. She could retire tomorrow, at age 22, and be a no-brainer Hall of Famer. She is a wonderful athlete. She is far grittier than credited. (Note how she embraced the role of No. 1 after inheriting the spot from Ash Barty; note how she has won majors when she has been far from her best; note matches like the 2023 French Open final, where she course-corrected and simply would not leave the court as anyone other than the winner.)

And the critiques, if that’s the right word, of her personality seem so errant. She has little interest in the look-at-me game or fashion or the trappings of celebrity. Good for her. She doesn’t make outrageous comments or social media provocations? Good for her. She doesn’t betray much emotion when she plays or magnetizes fans. Good for her

Is she an introvert? Sure. (So is Naomi Osaka, who has more endorsements than Taylor Swift has hits.) But that doesn’t make her boring. She reads books. She has interests beyond tennis. She has political opinions—note the Ukrainian flag pin on her ball cap. She doesn’t traffic in talking points and gives “didn’t-have-that-on-my-bingo-card” answers. Her sportsmanship is impeccable. Her reverence for tennis history is strong.

She needs to do very little differently. Fans need to readjust the way they see her. Her representatives need to readjust how they position her. The sport ought to be thankful it has her.

Hi Jon,

Regarding Johanna Konta’s comment that tennis fans en masse find it “trendy” to dislike Djokovic “for no reason.” Firstly, some champions are more loved than others. Trophies and popularity do not always go together … just when we had the “GOAT” feud dead and buried, we’re now turning to this. It’s so boring!

• Mark is referencing comments Konta made last month. To be clear, she was being charitable to Djokovic. But I have the opposite take. Just as he has put to rest the GOAT discussion, he has already buried the old story line about lagging popularity. I would argue that, if anything, it is now trendy to like Djokovic. He has continued winning relentlessly into his deep 30s. He has risen to the challenge posed by younger players. He has continued speaking with insight and eloquence. He has been a model father. He has been loyal to his country. He has been remarkably accessible for a global superstar. We could go on. From where I sit, the Djokovic Popularity Index is, rightly, at a historic high.


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