World No. 1 Iga Swiatek hasn’t played a prime-time match on the tournament’s first exhibition ground this fortnight until she faced an American in the semi-finals. But she went home to Sunday’s final and staged a teardown as quiet as the Arthur Ashe Stadium has seen in some time.
Swiatek beat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), with typical efficiency to claim her second Grand Slam title of the year, the third of her career and her first on hard court.
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She is the first Polish woman to win the US Open. When asked later at the on-court ceremony what that might mean, Swiatek looked at the few Polish flags in the crowd before laughing and replying that she wasn’t quite sure – she should d first go home and check. All he had to do was step out after the match to see a swarm of Polish fans dressed in red and white singing and cheering him on in the center of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The answer finally came to her as she stood alongside Jabeur, the Tunisian trailblazer who this summer became the first Arab woman and the first African woman to make a Grand Slam final when she played for the title at Wimbledon.
“Especially at this time when we have to stick together, I’m happy to be able to unite people with my sport,” Swiatek said. “I know I’m basically repeating what Ons said – you’re such an inspiration too – but we try to do our best, be good people and good examples.”
“I hope I can inspire more and more generations,” Jabeur said. “. . . This is just the start of so many things. »
Swiatek’s tennis soundtrack is free of yelps or grunts, all the squeaking sneakers and the rhythmic sound of the ball hitting the strings. But make no mistake, his game says it all.
At just 21 years old, Swiatek had one of the best winning streaks modern women’s tennis has ever seen when she won 37 consecutive matches and six straight tournaments earlier this year, capped by a victory over Coco Gauff for her second title at Roland-Garros.
Her victory at Flushing Meadows hints that the consistency that women’s tennis has lacked in its top tier since Williams won its last major title in 2017 could be on the way.
Swiatek was the first seed to reach the US Open final since Williams won the event eight years ago. She was also the first woman to reach the French Open and US Open final in the same year since Williams did in 2013.
She and Jabeur will be the world No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, when the new rankings begin on Monday.
Swiatek played to his best ranking throughout the tournament, going through the first three rounds despite uncomfortable conditions. She prefers the slower surfaces of the spring clay season and struggled to control the type of balls used by the US Open, but solved the problem to make it to the final. She fought back for wins twice after losing the first set, in the fourth round and in the semifinals.
“I’m proud to have a lot more solutions and options on the court than before in terms of tennis, but also mentally,” Swiatek said. “I use those skills quite well.”
Her triumph on hard court represents a crucial expansion of her game if she is to dominate women’s tennis all year round.
“I wasn’t sure I was still at the level to win a Grand Slam, especially [at the] US Open where the surface is so fast,” Swiatek said.
“It’s something I didn’t expect for sure. It’s also like a confirmation for me that the sky is the limit. I’m proud, also a bit surprised, just happy that I was able to do this.
Swiatek came into the match with nine tremendous wins in the 10 finals she won since 2019. The first set on Sunday ended in the blink of an eye, just 30 minutes in which Swiatek ran Jabeur over the field, light and skilful as a puppeteer.
His style is simply to put the ball in play and dominate with his powerful forehand rather than his serve. Swiatek’s unparalleled coverage on the court and his ability to deliver a smart shot regardless of body placement frustrated Jabeur hitting his racquet on the court in Game 5.
Jabeur, who had served so well to reach the final, only won 20% of the points on his first serve.
She finally found a foothold by attacking Swiatek’s serve in the second set and forced a tiebreaker but was never able to reverse the momentum. Swiatek took the win on her second match point and collapsed on the court, covering her face with her hands.
“So many emotions you have to lie down, you know?” she says. “I’m glad I didn’t start crying, too bad.”
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