Paris | Swiatek sweeps into French Open Final to meet Paolini

World No 1 Iga Swiatek has stamped her authority on the French Open, where she has not lost a match since 2021, by storming through her past 3 matches in barely 3 hours, including a ruthless defeat of Coco Gauff in Thursday’s semi-final.

The surface makes my game better. My grip allows me to spin more. I can play more defence points because it's a bit slower, but, on the other hand, I have also more time to attack sometimes. So I feel, like, I'm just using it well. Iga Swiatek

On the verge of a 4th Roland Garros title, which would become her 5th major title, Swiatek took down the 20-year old American, 6-2 6-4, for the 11th time in their 12 meetings.

“As always, she played at a tough level,” admitted Gauff. “She’s a tough matchup for me, obviously. I think the numbers answer that question.”

It took the 23-year old Pole an hour and 37 minutes to see off Gauff, who will rise to World No 2 on Monday, unseating Aryna Sabalenka, who fell in the quarter-finals.

Under bright skies on Court Philippe Chatrier, Swiatek’s determination was clear.

“I think most of the things, overall, in my game worked today, so I’m proud of myself,” Swiatek said after her latest win.

To land her 3rd successive French Open title, Swiatek will have to beat first-time Grand Slam finalist Jasmine Paolini on Saturday, after the No 12 seed from Italy ousted 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva, a precocious Russian, 6-3 6-1, in Thursday’s second semi-final.

Swiatek has a 2-0 head-to-head lead over Paolini, winning their first meeting at an ITF Challenger event in Prague, on clay, 6-2 6-1, and then beating her, 6-3 6-0, in the 1st round of the 2022 US Open, an event Swiatek went on to win, for her lone Grand Slam title outside of Paris to date.

Against Gauff, Swiatek produced one of her more gentle of performances as the 2-time defending champion extended her run to 20 consecutive match wins at Roland Garros.

Along the way, the Pole has managed to bagel 3 of her past 6 sets, delivering 2 of them to Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in a brutal 40 minute demolition, making it the quickest match of her professional career.

Her focus has only dipped during the second set of her 2nd-round match against former World No 1 Naomi Osaka, when she was on the ropes facing a match point, but such is Swiatek’s steely resolve that she recovered just in time from 2-5 down to win, 7-6(1) 1-6 7-5.

Experiencing her 11th defeat at the hands of Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff was left pondering what she needs to do to find an edge

© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Since the Osaka match, Swiatek has dropped a total of 14 games in her last 4 matches, and, after claiming another routine win over Gauff, she was asked what had changed since that encounter with the Japanese.

“For sure, something changed,” she said. “I adjusted better to the court. It’s not easy to play the first matches on a Grand Slam because the atmosphere is much different than other tournaments.

“Against Naomi, I didn’t have time to get into it. She was intense from the beginning, and put pressure on me. I’m happy I handled it well. After that, the weather changed. It helps my game, I feel. I just gained confidence I would say.”

Swiatek is in the midst of another lengthy clay-court winning streak, having now won 18 straight matches on the surface, a current run that ties her previous longest winning streak on clay, which was 18 straight between Stuttgart and Warsaw in 2022.

“The surface makes my game better,” Swiatek explained. “My grip allows me to spin more. I can play more defence points because it’s a bit slower, but, on the other hand, I have also more time to attack sometimes. So I feel, like, I’m just using it well.”

Back in 2022, Swiatek put together the longest streak that women’s tennis has seen this century by winning 37 straight matches on the trot across 6 tournaments, a run that included the Miami Open and her title here in 2022.

Gauff has never won a set off of Swiatek on clay, and their latest meeting started with an opening set in which the top seed never dropped her serve.

The American, though, had a chance to turn things around in the second set, when she broke for a 3-1 lead by dominating a rally, then finding the baseline with a fierce forehand.

A line judge erroneously called a Swiatek serve out instead of in, prompting Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte to rule that the call had not affected Gauff’s return, and awarded the Pole the point.

Gauff approached the umpire and delivered a uncharacteristic tirade as the crowd howled, seemingly on her side.

“They’re booing because they know you’re wrong,” she yelled, but Tourte did not budge, and Gauff was reduced to tears.

“When you’re playing against her, every point matters, against anybody, but especially against her,” Gauff said later. “I usually don’t get too frustrated with decisions like that, but I think it was just a combination of everything going on in the moment.”

Coco Gauff (L) made the second set more competitive but Iga Swiatek prevailed in straight sets

© Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

Gauff won that game, pushing ahead 3-1, but, unfazed at the other end of the court, Swiatek simply battled back, using powerful forehands of her own to scoop up 4 straight games and a 5-3 lead.

“I think I was pretty intense and putting pressure on Coco,” Swiatek said later. “Even though I got broken [at] the beginning of the second set, I knew that I can come back quickly, and I got my level of intensity a little bit higher to do that.

“Didn’t matter for me [the incident with the umpire]. I’m playing well on the return, and I can, kind of, win the return game, and the score will be even.”

That’s exactly how it went. Swiatek broke Gauff in the next game, and then in the one after that, a game in which Gauff could not win a point.

In the next, Gauff stared down 2 match points on her own serve, but the American erased them both, forcing Swiatek to serve out the match at 5-4.

The World No 1 was up to the challenge, and converted on her 4th match point after a Gauff forehand flew out of bounds.

Gauff had 27 winners to Swiatek’s 10, but the American also made 39 unforced errors to just 14 from the Pole, while behind their respective second serves, the defending champion was much more effective, winning 67% of those points, while the reigning US Open champion won only 32%.

“I know that there are things that I can improve to make this a closer score line,” Gauff said. “I don’t feel like my game is all the way developed yet.”

The problem for her is that Swiatek is working on her’s also, re-shaping her serve and developing a surprisingly deft and audacious net game that she has added to her arsenal since her breakout French Open title in 2020.

Swiatek praised the 20-year-old American’s game, and tipped her to continue growing, and getting better as a player.

“I think she’s progressing a lot. You can see by her results. Last year’s US Open showed she’s tough,” Swiatek said of Gauff. “At this age it’s, kind of, obvious she’s gonna just grow. It’s nice to see her handling everything well around her… because It’s not easy.

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty more intense matches at the highest level. Coco is one of the most consistent players out there.”

Jasmine Paolini continues to fly the flag for Italy by reaching the French Open final, beating Mirra Andreeva in the semis at Roland Garros

© Tim Goode/Getty Images

Her next opponent is the fearless Jasmine Paolini, who kept the Italian flag flying high after crushing Mirra Andreeva, 6-3 6-1, and bulldozing her way into the French Open final.

The diminutive 28-year-old is the first Italian to reach the final on the Paris clay since her doubles partner Sara Errani managed it in 2012.

Paolini used her booming forehand to devastating effect on Court Philippe-Chatrier to see off Andreeva, who had won their previous meeting, but the Russian failed to make the most of the few opportunities she had, making too many unforced errors to stand a chance in what was both players’ first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.

Paolini produced some impressive performances during the Paris Major, which included her win over World No 4 Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals, while Andreeva went into their semi-final on a high, having ousted World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the Last 8.

Andreeva proved no match for Paolini, though on this occasion, and the Italian exacted her revenge on the Russian for her 4th-round loss at the Madrid Open in late April.

17-year old Mirra Andreeva could not produce the form that took her to the semi-finals, and lost to Jasmine Paolini in straight sets on Thursday

© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

At her post-match press conference Paolini was asked about her relationship with Swiatek, as well as her proficiency in speaking Polish.

“I try to speak in Polish, but it’s not easy,” she said. “I’m a little bit shy, you know? Because I’m not feeling really confident in it. But of course, when I see her [Swiatek], I say congratulations for the titles she has won. So, the same she does.”

The 28-year-old went on to say that Swiatek had congratulated her for her title triumph at the Dubai Tennis Championships earlier this year, where she won against Anna Kalinskaya in the final.

“She congratulated me for Dubai,” Paolini added. “She wishes me good luck after matches when we meet in the locker room. So, yeah, I try to speak Polish but, you know, it’s not easy for me, but yeah, we have our relationship.”



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