Iga Swiatek out of Wimbledon after Yulia Putintseva defeat: How the shock happened

Iga Swiatek, the world No 1 who has never won Wimbledon, has been eliminated from this year’s tournament.

Up against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, the 5ft 4in world No. 35, Swiatek was defeated 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a third-round match on Court 1. There were eerie echoes of her loss to another tennis giantkiller, Alize Cornet, on the same court, at the same stage, on the equivalent day of the tournament in 2022.

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Swiatek, who was visibly upset at points during the match, ultimately had no answer to the intensity of Putintseva, who is in excellent form on grass having won the Birmingham tournament two weeks ago. She is now up to 8-0 on the surface this year, the joint-most wins without losing on both tours this year alongside Jannik Sinner. Back in 2019, Putintseva beat the then world No 2 Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon. Otherwise though it’s not been a surface she’s had much success on.

The same is true of Swiatek, who doesn’t have so much as a Wimbledon semifinal to go alongside her four French Open titles and five Grand Slams overall. She spoke after her latest Roland Garros title of even considering training in the offseason on grass to try and get a better handle on it.

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After this defeat, Swiatek feels no closer to solving the riddle, and if she keeps on winning in Paris there will be no obvious solution. Swiatek didn’t play a grass warm-up event prior to Wimbledon, citing understandable mental and physical exhaustion, which always meant there was a decent chance she’d arrive at the All England Club undercooked.

Putintseva certainly looked the sharper of the two, racing around the court and rushing Swiatek, taking away her rhythm. Swiatek ended up with an extremely high 37 unforced errors compared to Putintseva’s 15.

Putintseva faces No 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko next.

Swiatek will remain the world No 1 whatever Coco Gauff does the rest of the fortnight, and will now turn her attention to the Paris Olympics where she will be the overwhelming favourite to win the gold medal.

For now, though success at Wimbledon remains elusive.

How did Putintseva beat Swiatek?

At first glance, the answer is obvious. Putintseva peaked and Swiatek troughed for two sets, exemplified by the Pole hitting 28 unforced forehand errors and Putintseva hitting just three. At one point, Putintseva made just one unforced error in 11 games, hitting winners on to the lines from positions she had no right to do so.

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That is part of the story. Putintseva made 90 percent of her forehands, above her tournament average of 84 percent and the draw average of 82 percent, according to Tennis Viz. Swiatek made 73 percent, as opposed to her tournament average of 77 percent.

But it’s still only sort of what happened, because the final points difference was 88 for Putintseva and 75 for Swiatek, a 12-point swing back in the world No. 1’s favour from the unforced forehand error difference of -25.

That’s partly explained by the fact that she hit 12 more winners than Putintseva — but it’s not a clean swap. According to data from Tennis Viz, Swiatek was more effective than Putintseva in maintaining promising positions, staying on the offensive after hitting an attacking groundstroke 35 percent of the time as opposed to Putintseva’s 18 percent. Swiatek was able to force Putintseva back to a defensive or neutral position 36 percent of the time she received an attacking ball.

So what made the difference?

When Swiatek won her first French Open title in 2020, she was much more of an all-court player than she is today. Embracing the vicious spin and speed of her groundstrokes, particularly on her forehand side, has brought her three more titles there and another major at the U.S. Open. But today, with her forehand failing her, she tried to compensate. Against Putintseva, she played 18 net points to the Kazakh’s eight — in part because of her ability to stay in attack off a baseline ball.

She won just 10 of those 18. Putintseva won seven of eight when she came to net.

The rest was less tangible. Putintseva’s defence was a little better, slicing the ball with arc or at times moonballing it. Putintseva was able to hit her forehands deep ever so slightly more often than Swiatek — 39 percent of shots, as opposed to 37 percent.

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More importantly, and, perhaps, unluckily, Swiatek missed the baseline or sideline by an impossibly tiny margin on several occasions, while Putintseva managed to stay away from overshooting the white line.

What did Yulia Putintseva say after the match?

Putintseva was most pleased with the fact that, in her eyes, this result was about wrestling control of the match rather than Swiatek giving it away.

“I’m happy, extra happy, because she didn’t lose it; I took it,” Putintseva said.

“I was playing really well. This is for me the most important.”

Of her grass-court transformation from zero wins last year to an 8-0 record in 2024, she added: “Probably the coach (former ATP player Matteo Donati) helps. I mean, I started to work with a new coach before the preseason. Also maybe because I had nothing to defend here, I’m playing better. It just clicked and I’m playing good now. That what’s most important.”

Discussing the long break Swiatek took at the end of the second set, Putintseva said:

”I was a bit, like, not annoyed, but she took a lot of time off the court.

“I don’t know what the rules are. She just went to the toilet break. I don’t know what happened, how many minutes she was taking. Honestly at some point I was so bored. I thought she was coming. Then I was like moving, moving, she’s not there. Again moving, she’s not there.

“Then I was just super excited about the third set, that I was playing so well. I was just like, ‘Give it a roll.’ I was not rushing on purpose.”

What did Iga Swiatek say after the match?

A self-critical Swiatek said she blamed herself for her lack of sharpness at this tournament.

“I know what I did wrong after Roland Garros,” she said. “I didn’t really rest properly. I’m not going to make this mistake again.”

When pushed on what she meant by that, Swiatek said: “I literally came back to work — not tennis-wise, but off-court stuff — and I shouldn’t have done that. Maybe next year I’m going to take a vacation and literally just do nothing.”

Swiatek said she wasn’t referring here to commercial commitments. “No. Off-court stuff, my stuff. We planned the year that way so I don’t have to do a lot before the Olympics.”

(Top photo: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

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