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Iga Swiatek defeats Ons Jabeur to win US Open women’s singles title

The 2022 US Open will always be remembered – at least outside of Poland – for the retirement of Serena Williams, long the queen of tennis and the greatest women’s player ever.

But beware, after Poland’s Iga Swiatek won the women’s singles title on Saturday and defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the sport may have a new ruler in its hands.

Swiatek, the world No. 1, gave her best, beating Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (5) to capture her first US Open singles title. It was Swiatek’s third Grand Slam title in Swiatek’s short career and her first on any surface other than clay.

As Jabeur’s final forehand sailed long, Swiatek sank onto her back after a 1hr 51 minute duel that got dangerously close as the afternoon wore on. After a first set that was over in 30 minutes, it took Swiatek and Jabeur 81 minutes to complete the second, while Jabeur fought back twice from a service failure to tie the set into a tiebreak before Swiatek finally got the upper hand.

Swiatek, 21, won the French Open in 2020 and 2022, becoming the first Polish woman to win a Grand Slam title. And now she is the first Polish woman to win three and the US Open, where she was the first Polish woman to reach the singles final.

How young is this new tennis queen? She’s Gen-Z to the core. After the extended congratulatory hug with Jabeur and a little celebration, she settled into her chair, took her phone out of her bag and texted while waiting for the trophy to be presented.

For Swiatek, the win was the last success in a season full. She won 37 consecutive games and six consecutive titles from late winter to early summer. Those wins included the so-called Sunshine Double – winning both the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and the Miami Open in March and April.

Those victories, on hard courts similar to those of the US Open, made Swiatek known as a force on courts other than clay, where she was already dominant. She has won so many 6-0 sets this year – a “bagel” in tennis parlance – that the saying “Iga’s bakery” was coined.

Swiatek’s rise to the top came at an opportune time. In March, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion and world No. 1, abruptly retired when she was 25 years old. She said she had achieved everything she wanted in the sport and that she was ready for a new challenge.

Upon her departure, Barty, then reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, left a great void in women’s tennis, which has been largely free-for-all in recent years.

No woman has won more than two Grand Slam titles in a calendar year since Williams won three in 2015. Since the end of 2020, Swiatek has worked hard to bring order to women’s tennis, winning three of the last 10 Grand Slam titles.

In addition to her dominance on the field, Swiatek has taken on a leadership role. She has spoken out more against the Russian invasion of Ukraine than any other non-Ukraine player and has helped raise more than $2 million in relief efforts through her participation in tennis exhibitions, one of which she hosted herself.

“We try our best to be good people,” she said at the awards ceremony, as red and white Polish flags waved over the stands.

From the start, all signs pointed to this being Swiatek’s afternoon. During the warm-up, the sound system blasted into AC/DC, one of her favorite bands. (Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin also feature prominently on her playlist.)

Once the balls started flying, Swiatek gave little reason for anyone to believe that this match would turn out any differently than so many finals before it. When he came in, Swiatek had played in 10 career finals. She hasn’t lost a single one since her first, way back in 2019. Even more remarkable, she hasn’t lost a set in any of those wins.

“Iga never loses finals, so it will be very difficult,” said Jabeur on Thursday night, as Swiatek made her second comeback in this tournament after a set in her semifinal fight against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, a player she was particularly determined to support. various reasons not to lose.

Against Jabeur on Saturday, Swiatek was ambushed from the start. She won 12 of the first 14 points and sprinted to a 3-0 lead. Jabeur climbed back and started his serve again when Swiatek momentarily lost control of her overwhelming forehand. But then Swiatek went right back to work, with a style that has become more clinical than fancy.

With so little resistance, Jabeur had to do little more than strike deep in court. In the end, Jabeur either made a mistake or a shot landed somewhere around the service line, allowing Swiatek to go in and shoot away. After 30 minutes the first set was over.

The queens of women’s tennis have historically done things like this.

Jabeur, the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era and reach the highest level of the sport, has arguably the most creative arsenal in the women’s game. When on, she can mix jumping backhand drop shots with a dangerous forehand and a deceptively hard serve that can land her in corners with nasty moves.

She reached the Wimbledon final earlier this summer, holding a one-set lead before tightening and being overpowered by Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. For Saturday, she spoke about the lessons she learned from that match and how she now knew ways to control her emotions.

But with Swiatek on top form, Jabeur, who has become an inspiration to Arab women, could do little to stop the locomotive.

“We’re going to get that title soon,” she said after losing her second Grand Slam final of the year. “Hopefully this is the start of so many things.”

The second set followed a similar pattern to the first at first, with Swiatek rising to a 3-0 lead, Jabeur getting back on serve and then Swiatek, who took control back in the sixth game to win within two games of the championship. come

From that point on, the only question was whether Swiatek’s sometimes shaky psyche might take over or whether a mob waving to Jabeur’s side and begging her to extend the afternoon and make their expensive tickets worth it might rattle her.

A few random knuckleheads began to whistle in the middle of Swiatek’s serve move. A baby cried. Jabeur has left the cute stuff. No more variety for the sake of variety. She tried to match Swiatek’s strength from the baseline. It worked when she tied the set in four games each.

However, Swiatek is so different from the frail player who won her first Grand Slam title as a teenager. She has evolved from a player who cried in the bathroom during toilet breaks in the middle of matches to a problem solver.

That player may never have had a prayer for victory in New York, where all the noise and commotion – passing trains and planes, fans who feel they deserve long raucous matches and to help determine the outcome – win here. otherwise create task from somewhere else.

“It’s New York, so loud, so crazy,” she would later say of both her past two weeks and this match.

Just keeping the ball in play no longer worked. Jabeur sent her back and forth across the baseline, holding chances to break Swiatek’s serve in the next game and serve for the second set. And just then, Swiatek figured out how to calm her nerves and reverse the mistakes. It wasn’t pretty, but it solved the problem, or at least kept it from happening.

Jabeur would stretch Swiatek and get as close as anyone else to winning a set in a Grand Slam final. But in the tiebreak, strokes that had become smooth and stable began to sail. On their last run, Swiatek’s first serve wasn’t even close, and she lobbed in her second ball. The forehand Swiatek hitting Jabeur’s return floated to the center of the field, but Jabeur couldn’t take advantage of it and the championship was hers.

There should be many, many more.