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An upset winner in 2020 who became World No.1 and a heavy favorite, Iga Swiatek perfectly held her position to put her name on the Roland-Garros roster for the second time at the expense of American teenager Coco Gauff on Saturday. Sous un ciel orageux, et peu après qu’un premier coup de tonnerre a résonné, c’est Swiatek qui a fait parler la foudre en surclassant 6-1, 6-3 en 68 minutes Gauff, never vraiment libérée pour sa première finale majeure , at 18 years old. “I just told Coco not to cry, and it’s me who’s crying now,” she smiled, the number 1 in the world, moved to tears during the Polish anthem. “When I was your age, it was my first year on tour and I had no idea what I was doing,” she comforted her hapless opponent.
Swiatek also wanted to have a word for Ukraine, where the war has been raging for more than a hundred days. “Since (the tournament in) Doha (end of February), I hoped that in each tournament (I played) the situation would improve, but I remain hopeful,” he said. This is the second Grand Slam trophy for the young Polish woman, 21, since Tuesday, after her then unexpected coronation in the Parisian autumn, due to Covid-19, a year and a half ago. “In 2020, I felt confused, because I never really believed 100% that I could win a Grand Slam. I just felt lucky,” compares Swiatek. This time, it is the result of “Hard work. I know better what it takes.” to win a Grand Slam, how much each piece of the puzzle has to fit together. Knowing that, I am even happier and prouder.”
35 wins and six titles in a row
Countless signs bear witness to her takeover of women’s tennis, her fully embracing her still recent status as World No. 1, which she suddenly inherited in early April following Ashleigh Barty’s surprise retirement. His last defeat of hers? It dates back more than a hundred days. Precisely on February 16 in Dubai (in the round of 16 against Ostapenko). Since then, Swiatek has posted 35 wins in a row, tied for the best series of the 2000s set by Venus Williams and the third-best series since the 1990s, trailing only Martina Hingis (37) and Monica Seles (36). Only four other players – and not just any – have also signed series at least as long throughout their career: Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Margaret Court and Chris Evert.
After Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome, Swiatek won his sixth consecutive trophy at Roland-Garros. We hadn’t seen that for almost fifteen years, with Justine Hénin between the summer of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 (from Toronto to Sydney). At 21, the Warsaw native becomes the youngest multiple Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova (19 at the 2006 US Open after 2004 Wimbledon). She also becomes the first since Serena Williams (2015) and Sharapova (2014) to win multiple times on Parisian clay.
Throughout the fortnight, Swiatek set the tone. In seven matches, she only dropped one set on the road: in the quarterfinals, against the young Chinese Qinwen Zheng (6-7 (5/7), 6-0, 6-2), in a match of 2h45 min. . Other than that, she averaged less than an hour and a quarter on the pitch per match, like the final. Facing Gauff, Swiatek made the most of the obvious tension from her young opponent, inexperienced in the major final, to quickly escape 4 games to 0 and pocket the first set in 32 minutes. The Florida teenager didn’t record his first game until after 23 minutes. A slight improvement gave her a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Swiatek immediately bounced back and then proved intractable.
A custom in the final for the Pole, accompanied since the off-season by a new coach, Tomasz Wiktorowski: since her first loss in 2019 (Lugano), she has won the next nine. “When I was 15, 16, 17, I felt a lot of pressure to get to a (Grand Slam) final. Now that I’ve done it, I feel relieved,” admits Gauff, who at just 15 years old made a name for himself by offering Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon in 2019 and being invited there until the round of 16. On Monday she will rise to 13th in the world, the best ranking of her budding career.