Thursday , July 7 2022

Iga Swiatek reigns at French Open again after swatting Coco Gauff aside | French Open 2022

Iga Swiatek arrived at the French Open as heavily favoured to win a women’s grand slam title as practically any player since the final peak years of Serena Williams, and she certainly knew it. Over the course of the past two weeks, she navigated all of the pressure and emotions, and, in a show reminiscent of all of the great champions before her, in the end it only made her stronger.

Swiatek finished the job with supreme efficiency, overwhelming and outplaying Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 to win her second grand slam title at the French Open, where she also won her first in 2020. The victory is the crown on top of her astounding run, which stands at 35 wins in a row and counting. She has won six titles in a row.

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Along with her winning streak, which equals Venus Williams’s 21st-century record, Swiatek is now 21-2 (91%) at the French Open, the third best record in the history of the women’s tournament, having won the event twice in her first four years as a senior. Such is her dominance over the rest of the field, the Pole now has nearly double the ranking points (8,631) as the world No 2, Anett Kontaveit (4,325).

The supreme aura that Swiatek has generated over the past four months was reflected in the audience’s allegiances. From the moment she entered the court they desperately cheered Gauff. After an unforced error in the opening point, a spectator shouted out: “Coco, it’s not finished!” in French to general laughter. When she double-faulted on the second point, the crowd gave a long, rousing ovation as if the American was already trailing by a set and a break.

None of that positive energy had any effect in the early stages. The first obstacle of a first grand slam final is the arresting nerves that can come for anyone, and as Gauff lost her opening service game in a shower of forehand errors, she clearly wasn’t settled down.

With Swiatek continually targeting her itchy forehand, it took Gauff 22 minutes to clinch her first game in a grand slam final and she relaxed. But her biggest issue remained the unstoppable force across the net. Swiatek continued to elicit short balls from Gauff in their forehand-to-forehand exchanges from the deuce court, which she swept up while continually breaking down the American’s second serve.

The second set began with a surprise, Swiatek opening with three wild errors and losing her serve easily. As Gauff took heart and attacked a forehand to hold for 2-0, the crowd cheered as loudly as possible. But the run for Gauff was short-lived, with her attempts to match Swiatek’s offence yielding too many errors. The Pole took control again and she imposed relentless pressure until the end.

Iga Swiatek celebrates winning the final point
Iga Swiatek celebrates winning the final point. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Even though what Swiatek has achieved was predicted by most people two weeks ago, none of this should be taken lightly. The swiftness with which she has risen to the top has been remarkable after starting the season ranked ninth, one quality player among many.

She has maintained this level even as the previous No 1, Ashleigh Barty, retired unexpectedly, inadvertently thrusting the ranking on her. Even when this streak demanded so much from her, with the help of her coach and physio, she managed the pressure and emotions as well as she possibly could and she has found her best tennis every single time she needed it.

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As the WTA has searched for a young star who can carry the burden of being No 1, winning consistently and everywhere, Swiatek has arrived. She will continue to contend for the biggest titles and she may well be on the verge of a level of dominance at the French Open that has not been seen in the women’s game since Justine Henin 15 long years ago.

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