Monday , July 4 2022

‘Sky’s the limit’ for Iga Swiatek after reaching French Open semi-final | French Open 2022

Over the past few months, Iga Swiatek has convincingly demonstrated her superiority over the rest of the field as she piled up points, victories and tournaments while aspiring to dominate all opponents in her path. Doing so at a grand slam tournament, however, while managing the heightened pressure and attention, is a different challenge altogether.

So far, Swiatek has thrived in this new role. After experiencing the “cold shower” of a rare lost first set in the fourth round, Swiatek returned with a clean, efficient performance against the second highest player left in the draw, bulldozing 11th seed Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semi-final in Paris on her 21st birthday.

Swiatek has now extended her remarkable winning streak to 33 matches, the third greatest women’s run of the 21st century. This marks her third career grand slam semi-final after her victory here in 2020 and her semi-final run in the Australian Open in January.

Because of her inexperience in 2020 and her hard-court record respectively, both of those semi-finals were surprise runs. Now she is at a different stage in her career: “This time I feel like I’m in the right place and that place that I worked for really hard,” she said.

Afterwards, Swiatek reflected on what she learnt as a 20-year-old in a year that her life changed: “I kind of felt like the sky’s the limit for me, so I feel more free right now, I feel like I’ve proven myself. A lot has changed in my mind and for sure I also realise that I can actually be No. 1 and really cope with it properly. So that’s pretty cool.”

Swiatek next faces Daria Kasatkina, the 20th seed, who had Veronika Kudermetova on a string with her deep toolbox of shots as she won 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach her maiden grand slam semi-final without losing a set.

Meanwhile, Amélie Mauresmo, the Roland Garros tournament director, has courted controversy after saying that the French Open’s decision to almost entirely block women’s matches from featuring in the night sessions is due to the greater “appeal” of men’s matches. Nine of the ten night matches at Roland Garros this year have been men’s matches.

“In this era that we are in right now, I don’t feel – and as a woman, former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying that right now you have more attraction, more attractivity – can you say that? Appeal? That’s the general, for the men’s matches,” she said.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek in action during her quarter-final match against Jessica Pegula of the US.
Iga Swiatek was unhappy with comments from Amélie Mauresmo, the Roland Garros tournament director, about giving men’s matches priority for the night session. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

After her match, Swiatek expressed her disappointment at Mauresmo’s comments: “It is a little bit disappointing and surprising because she was also in the WTA. But from my point of view, for every player it’s more convenient to play at a normal hour, but for sure I want to entertain and I also want to show my best tennis on every match.”

The night sessions at the French Open have been widely criticised throughout the tournament, with players opposing them while expressing their dislike of the cold, slow late night conditions they are held in.

The one-match night sessions were erected entirely to cater to Amazon Prime, which streams them exclusively in France and they have also received stinging public criticism from Delphine Ernotte, chief executive of France Televisions, the host broadcaster.

Mauresmo, who is in her first year as tournament director, spoke unimpressively in her press conference about various topics in the tournament. Along with the unreasonably late finish in the early hours of Wednesday morning, spectators struggled to return home due to the lack of transport infrastructure and extortionate taxis. Mauresmo sheepishly explained that there are currently no plans to help spectators.

“If we continue with these night sessions in this direction, people need to leave the stadium late enough and make sure that they have a way to come back home, as they should. We do not have the means to organise this for 15,000 people yet. For the moment, there is nothing.”

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