Paris | Swiatek and Gauff set dream Roland Garros final

World No 1 Iga Swiatek emphatically dispatched Daria Kasatkina on Thursday to reach the French Open final, where she will meet Coco Gauff, who stopped Martina Trevisan’s run in the semi-finals, in what many see as a dream contest.

 

Just being able to be in the final again, it's great. Especially when I didn't know, actually, how I'm gonna play here after so many tournaments that I played. It seemed kind of obvious for me that the streak may come to an end soon. So I just wanted to take it really step by step. I didn't have any exact goals on this tournament. Just seeing how my game is developing every match, it's something that's giving me a lot of hope, and I'm just proud of myself. Iga Świątek

“I knew we were going to play in a Grand Slam final,” Gauff said. “This final, I mean, I want it for myself but, I think, I’m really happy to play her specifically, because I always wanted to play her in a final.

“I knew it was going to happen eventually just from, even in juniors, that it was going to happen, just from the way our games were both projecting.

“I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

It was a dominant and brutal performance by Swiatek, the Polish top seed, who is a staunch supporter of Ukraine and wears a pin of the country’s national flag on her hat for every match she plays.

While Swiatek has wobbled a little in her last 2 matches, there was no hesitancy against Kasatkina, a Russian who is playing as a neutral because of her country’s invasion of Ukraine, and one cannot help but think that the Pole was sending a clear message with her 6-2 6-1 win after a 64 minute demolition.

Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete at Roland Garros but will have to sit out Wimbledon as the All England Club is not accepting entries from competitors from the two countries because of Russia’s so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine that has been aided by Belarus.

The win extends her winning streak to 34 consecutive matches and, amazingly, she has not lost a contest since February, fully supported all the way by her legion of Polish fans.

“Pretty special moment,” Swiatek said on Court Philippe-Chatrier after her match. “Yeah, I’m really emotional.

“I’m so grateful to be in this place and, you know, be healthy and be able to play my game. It’s amazing and I love playing here.

“Right after my first year there was COVID, and I was not able to see how many Polish people would come. It’s overwhelming.

“I try to treat every match the same way. When I realise this is one of the biggest matches of the season, it could stress me out.”


Daria Kasatinka failed to impact Iga Swiatek's progress to the final on Thursday

© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Swiatek is now tied for the 2nd-longest winning streak of this century with Serena Williams, who won 34 consecutive matches between Miami and Wimbledon in 2013, while victory for the 21-year-old in the final would equal Venus Williams’ 21st-century record of 35 straight wins, set in 2000.

Incredibly, the Pole has also won 54 of her past 56 sets, dropping one each to Liudmila Samsonova at Indian Wells and to Zheng Qinwen here in Paris, both in tiebreaks.

Swiatek started with a double-fault but held, and broke in the 2nd game, drawing first blood by taking her 4th break point to move 2-0 up, before Kasatkina responded with smart yet aggressive winners to level.

Serving at 2-3, 15-30, Kasatkina was shaping up to hammer away a forehand sitter when a gust of wind caught the ball, and the 25-year-old sent the ball way over the baseline.

Minutes later, Swiatek flashed a forehand winner to go up a break again, and she never looked back, winning 5 straight games, and 20 out of 25 points, as she raced through the rest of the opener.

Kasatkina stemmed the tide with a hold in the game 2 of the second, but the respite was brief and Swiatek then won 5 straight games, including 20 out of the last 23 points of the match, striking 22 winners to 13 unforced errors, and taking her total of winners at Roland Garros this year to 140.

She also landed 70% of her first serves, and won 79% of those points as she conceded only 11 points behind her delivery in total, 4 of which came in the one game that she was broken.

Kasatkina found 10 winners, but was undone by 24 unforced errors as she tried to keep pace with Swiatek.

The World No 20 had dropped serve only 6 times in the tournament prior to her Grand Slam semi-final debut, and 4 of those occasions were in her quarter-final against compatriot Veronika Kudermetova, but Swiatek punished Kasatkina’s second serve, winning 11 of the 14 points returning it, and broke her 5 times in total.

As the finishing line neared, Swiatek broke her opponent at love for a 5-1 lead with a clean return winner, and sealed her first match point with her first ace of the day.


Coco Gauff was fully focused on fending off any challenge from Martina Trevisan in their semi-final encounter.

© Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

After a dominant return to her second Slam final in Paris, Swiatek says her best tennis may still be ahead of her.

The 2020 champion is not satisfied yet, telling the press she is ‘even more happy with the performance than after the previous match’, referring to her similarly lop-sided 6-3 6-2 win over Jessica Pegula in the semi-final.

“Because I feel, like, my game is getting more and more solid,” she continued. “I can really loosen up when I’m getting advantage, and when I’m having a break, so that’s great.

“I feel like I’m playing better every match.”

While others may have crumpled under the spotlight and pressure, Swiatek is taking everything in stride and avoiding expectations.

“I try not to hold it inside, and I try to talk with the whole team about it,” she said. “It’s just cool that I have people around that I trust, and I can just talk about some stuff over lunch.

“But for sure the pep talks that I have before the match are really helpful, both from the coach [Tomasz Wiktorowski] and from Daria [Abramowicz, psychologist]. We already have this kind of routine that is working perfectly, and we are trying to hold on to that.

“When I learned how to also improve during tournaments, and how to loosen up during tournaments, I think it’s pretty great, because the beginnings are tough,” she added. “Here I feel better and better every match, so I hope it’s going to stay that way.

“It’s a nice feeling to have, because usually, it’s sometimes the opposite. For other players when they are going to higher rounds they are more stressed, and I’m working pretty hard at the beginning to avoid that.

“Maybe that feeling after the match that you were physically stronger, and the feeling after some long rallies that it was possible for me to finish with a nice stroke.

“When I already felt like my legs are burning, and I was sure my opponent’s legs are burning, I could still go low and just play really solid game, that’s kind of satisfying. Because you can feel that all those practices were worth it.”


Martina Trevisan saw her run of 10 matches come to an end at the hands of Coco Gauff on Thursday

© Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Looking to become the 4th woman since 2000 to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup twice, following Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Swiatek is keeping her foot on the gas when she meets Gauff in the final on Saturday, after the American teenager saw off 28-year old Italian Trevisan, 6-3 6-1.

The 18-year old has been speaking about the pressure she felt and how she has put things into perspective.

“Even last year I was too focused on other people’s expectations,” she said after beating Sloane Stephens in the quarters. “I think you have to enjoy life.

“I know, no matter how good or bad my career is, I think I’m a great person. So I think that’s a message for all the young players out here.

“Even in life, your results, your job or how much money you make, doesn’t define you as a person. So just know that if you love yourself it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

“Our society focuses too much on materialism and status. We all come into this world in the same way. And we leave in the same way.

“I always try to tell young kids to dream big, you never know when your moment is going to come.”

Gauff is another deep-thinker with a well-balanced perspective on life while still being a cool competitor on the court.

On Thursday, she overcame double-faults, tentative play and early breaks, before upgrading her game brilliantly to crush the Italian left-hander, and reach her first ever Grand Slam final.

After winning, she wrote ‘Peace. End Gun Violence’ on the TV lens, later saying she had learned a lot from other athletes and recalled that she has friends who survived the Parkland shooting that killed 17 in 2018.

“This is just a [gun safety] message for people back home,” Gauff explained. “Hopefully it gets into the heads of people who are in office.

“I have really been trying to educate myself. I’m a human being before I am a tennis player. My dad told me I could change the world with my racket.”


Between the two semi-finals on Thursday, Billie Jean King (CR) received a trophy celebrating the 50th anniversary of her win at Roland-Garros, from World No 1 Iga Swiatek (CL), accompanied by Roland-Garros' director Amélie Mauresmo (R) and President of the French Tennis Federation Gilles Moretton (L)

© Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

Stopping the fairy-tale run of unseeded Trevisan, the 18-year-old, who is the youngest player to reach the final in Paris since Belgian Kim Clijsters in 2001, has not dropped a set in her 6 wins so far, and lost just 4 games against the Italian in 68 minutes.

After a tight opening 6 games in which the players traded service breaks twice, Gauff won 9 of the last 10 games to end Trevisan’s 10-match winning streak.

In so doing, Gauff becomes the youngest player to reach a Major women’s singles final since Maria Sharapova at 2004 Wimbledon, as well as the youngest American to reach one since Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open and the youngest American to reach the French Open women’s singles final since Andrea Jaeger in 1982.

With history in the making, Gauff will try to end Swiatek’s run despite having lost to the powerful top seed at the 2021 Italian Open and at the Miami Open two months ago.

Swiatek is the clear favourite to win her second French Open title on Saturday, and Gauff speaks glowingly about her: “She’s super nice… just as nice as you guys have seen her in press conferences.

“I think she does a great job of, like, changing direction and, like, hitting angles off the court, and hitting winners, she’s always hitting winners.

“She’s on a streak right now, obviously, and I think, going in, I have nothing to lose and she’s definitely the favourite but, I think that, going in, I’m just going to play free and play my best tennis.

“I think in a Grand Slam final anything can happen.”

It will be a full-circle role reversal for Swiatek who, back in 2020, stunned World No 2 Simona Halep on her way to the trophy, snapping the heavily-favoured Romanian’s own 17-match win streak.

Gauff may well do the same to her in this final, but Swiatek is determined to stick to her game plan, for one last bit of magic on Saturday.

“Just being able to be in the final again, it’s great,” said Swiatek. “Especially when I didn’t know, actually, how I’m gonna play here after so many tournaments that I played.

“It seemed kind of obvious for me that the streak may come to an end soon. So I just wanted to take it really step by step. I didn’t have any exact goals on this tournament.

“Just seeing how my game is developing every match, it’s something that’s giving me a lot of hope, and I’m just proud of myself.”

Their clash marks the 2nd-youngest Grand Slam final since 2000, after they came within a point of meeting in the junior final of 2018 here in Paris, when Gauff went on to win that title, aged just 14, before Swiatek collected the Wimbledon girls’ title a few weeks later.

Swiatek and Gauff have set the dream final at Roland Garros, and more history will be written.


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