On Tuesday, Iga Swiatek found herself in a hole during the last stages of her Eastbourne opener against local hope Heather Watson. The young Pole trailed 1-4 in the deciding set but was able to dig deep and turn things around to win 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5.
Iga Swiatek won her first grasscourt match on the WTA tour, improving her record on the surface to 1-2. However, there was a point near the conclusion of the competition that sparked some debate on Twitter, with some fans accusing the 20-year-old of cheating.
That incident, however, was not brought up at Iga Swiatek’s post-match news conference. Instead, the Pole praised her performance in great detail, emphasizing how she stayed strong and confident in her own abilities despite not being used to playing on grass.
“I believe I was just battling,” Swiatek explained, “and even though grass isn’t the surface I really understand, I continued thinking that I could do it regardless.” “You know, I have some weapons that I can employ.”
The 20-year-old also stated that she played more freely in the decider, something she feels is critical to succeed on the surface.
“It helped me a lot when I got more relaxed in the third set,” Swiatek continued. “I think it’s crucial while playing on grass.” Iga Swiatek was accused of “blatant interference” during the final stages of her first-round victory in Eastbourne.
While Iga Swiatek and Heather Watson’s match was close from start to finish, the last game was especially tense.
At 5-6, 15-30 down, the Brit was serving to remain in the match when she hit a nice body serve. Swiatek barely got the rebound over the net and was at the mercy of Watson, who rushed forward to smash the ball away for the game-winning goal.
Swiatek appeared to lose her footing and flailed her racket mid-air as the Brit approached the net. Watson missed the simple putaway when the racket hit the ground and made a tiny sound.
The umpire did not classify Iga Swiatek’s change of direction or racket tap as a hindrance, granting the Pole match point after nearly 3 hours of play. Swiatek then clinched the deal at the first attempt, advancing her to the second round, where she will face Daria Kasatkina.
Some Twitter users were not pleased with Iga Swiatek’s movement on the 15-30 point. Some of them claimed that Swiatek had distracted Watson, with one even going so far as to brand the young Pole a “blatant impediment.”
This was blatant hinderance from Iga and I hope she learns from this and doesn’t try something like that again.— Pierre (@szaczn) June 22, 2021
Really not a good look at all. pic.twitter.com/qqn4s1bipu
However, according to the ‘Impediment Rule’ part of the WTA 2021 Rulebook, a player will be penalised a point only if their hindrance is deemed to be “deliberate.” And the absence of action from the umpire implies that Iga Swiatek did not purposefully distract Heather Watson and so did not violate the law.
A deeper examination of the point reveals that Swiatek was caught off guard by the slick nature of the surface. As a result, the Pole was pushed off-balance, causing her to unintentionally hit the ground with her racket.
Many fans then rushed to Iga Swiatek’s rescue, pointing out that Heather Watson herself had shown no resentment toward the Pole for her alleged act of gamesmanship.
Don’t see why this has created so much noise tbh. Iga Swiatek’s racquet tap looked completely unintentional, & merely the result of being off-balance. Watson (and the umpire) didn’t seem to have a problem with it either, so we’re probably making an issue out of nothing. https://t.co/BocGDlPvUQ— Musab (@Musab_Abid) June 23, 2021