Takeaways from Iga Swiatek’s shocking loss to Alize Cornet

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LONDON — For the first time since February, Iga Swiatek experienced defeat, beaten 6-4, 6-2 by France’s Alize Cornet in the third round at Wimbledon on Saturday. The result ended the Pole’s run of 37 straight wins and six straight titles, including a second French Open title.

What went wrong for Swiatek? And what will she take away from it? Five observations from the match:

Cornet was perhaps the worst possible draw

When Alize Cornet beat the then world No. 1 Serena Williams, at the same stage and on the same No. 1 Court in 2014, she explained that her secret was putting one more ball in the court and “annoying” Serena in the process. Like Williams, Swiatek is used to dictating and when it doesn’t happen, the frustration grows. Cornet made just seven unforced errors, a stunning figure against the world No. 1, and hit 16 winners. Cornet revels on the big occasion and she played her best yet again.

Grass is still a work in progress

While clay and hard courts are her domain, Swiatek is a relative novice on grass and the fact that she didn’t have any grass-court preparation, in terms of tournaments, hardly helped. Yes, she’s a junior champion at Wimbledon but grass is a surface you need to feel comfortable on, especially in terms of movement, and throughout the event, it seemed like Swiatek’s footwork, usually a strongpoint of her game, was not quite there. The Pole is too good not to get there eventually, but it may take her a few years before she’s really competing for the title.

All streaks end eventually

Swiatek knew that sooner or later her streak would end and she probably knew inside that grass, the surface on which she has played the least, was the most likely place for it to happen. In her 37 straight wins — spanning six titles, including a second French Open — she’d only had to dig deep a handful of times, so smooth was her progress.

Against Cornet, her game was off, her tank was empty and the Frenchwoman, no stranger to upsets, took advantage with another stunning performance.

She needs a break

No one can keep going at full pelt forever without eventually falling. Swiatek has been winning since February, seeing off all contenders on all surfaces, and taking over the world No. 1 mantle vacated by the retirement of Ashleigh Barty in March. Physically, after 37 straight wins, she must need a break, from training as well as competition. Mentally, she will also need time to recharge.

But she will bounce back quickly

Swiatek knew she would lose again; it just wasn’t possible to keep such a winning streak going. In the work she’s been doing with her sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, Swiatek said she’s been preparing for how she’ll feel when she loses. The fact that she was not distraught as she congratulated Cornet bodes well in terms of how long it will take for her to get over this loss. Inside, she probably didn’t expect to win Wimbledon. After a break, which she doubtless needs, she’ll be back on more sure footing on the hard courts and will get back to winning.

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