Iga Swiatek’s US Open victory cements her status as the dominant force in women’s tennis

NEW YORK – After Ons Jabeur’s forehand sailed wide, Iga Swiatek immediately dropped to the ground and covered her eyes with her hands. Polish flags waved and “Iga” chants erupted around Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Swiatek had just won the US Open, her third major title of her career and second of the year, with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Ons Jabeur and in that moment she proved it you is now the long-awaited dominant force in women’s tennis.

But even she seemed shocked when she accepted her trophy after the game — and not just because of the $2.6 million check she was presented with.

“I’m pretty glad it’s not cash,” she joked.

After proving she was the best in the world on clay, she still had questions about her hard court game.

“I’m not expecting much, especially going into this tournament, it’s been a challenging time,” Swiatek said on court, while wearing a new Asics jacket with “1GA” and three stars representing every major win. “Coming back after a Grand Slam win is difficult, even if Roland Garros was second [major title]I had to stay calm and focus on the goals.

“It’s challenging. New York is loud, it’s so crazy. There’s so much temptation in the city, so many inspirational people I’ve met, I’m so proud of how I’ve dealt with it mentally.”

While Serena Williams’ impending retirement made headlines in the first week of the tournament, Swiatek proved during her impressive fortnight that she was the heir apparent to Williams’ previous role as a Tour superstar. In recent years there have been others who have found steady success – including Naomi Osaka, who has won four Major titles on hard, and the recently retired Ashleigh Barty, who won a Grand Slam on every surface – but Swiatek’s time is now. She’s a contender wherever she plays.

It was Swiatek’s seventh title of the season — the most by a woman on tour since Williams in 2014 — and Swiatek became the first woman to win multiple Majors in the same year since Angelique Kerber in 2016, ranking 1st since April, and Swiatek now has twice as many points as Jabeur, who will return in second place on Monday.

Even the devastated Jabeur, who hit back on Saturday after a lopsided first set that lasted just 29 minutes to force a tiebreak in the second set, conceded the US Open title belonged to Swiatek after the match.

“I really tried, but Iga didn’t make it easy for me,” said Jabeur on the pitch. “She deserved to win today. I don’t like her very much at the moment, but it’s okay.”

It’s been an incredible rise over the past two years for the Polish star. Swiatek, a former junior champion, arrived at the pandemic-delayed French Open in 2020 ranked 54th in the world after Roland Garros and was barely on the radar. She left Paris as a champion.

Following the landmark win, Swiatek openly expressed her desire to be more consistent, acknowledging that many in women’s football had been a struggle lately. She has more than fulfilled that hope. The 21-year-old is now the youngest three-time Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova in 2008.

In 2022 alone, she had a staggering 37-game winning streak, dropping just one set during her title run at Roland Garros. In the final, she lost just four games to budding superstar Coco Gauff.

Swiatek showed all summer that she wasn’t as comfortable on hard as she was on clay and publicly expressed her displeasure with the balls used in last month’s US Open swing, but she found ways to win when it mattered most. She needed three sets in two of her matches, the fourth round and the semifinals, en route to the final. She later said these challenges gave her more confidence.

“It gives you a bit of confidence that you can handle any situation out there,” Swiatek said on Thursday. “Yeah, maybe some just trust that next time you know what skill to choose and what solution to have, sort of. It is for sure the best experience you can have for the next games.”

She had no confidence issues on Saturday. She was far from flawless – she recorded more unforced errors than winners, as she had in every match at the tournament – but found a way to win even as Jabeur upped her level in the second set.

Off the pitch, Swiatek has emerged as one of the more outspoken leaders on the Tour, much like Williams was for so many years. She has worn a Ukrainian flag ribbon on her hat since the beginning of the Russian invasion of the country and has organized several exhibitions to raise money for humanitarian aid and awareness-raising, including during a “Tennis Plays for Peace” event ahead of the US Open at Louis-Armstrong -Stadion. Despite being an introvert by nature, having one thing and giving her something more to play for than just herself seems to have empowered Swiatek.

Shortly after Swiatek’s win on Saturday night, she brought her trophy to the ESPN set outside of Arthur Ashe for a live interview. Thousands of fans gathered behind her, a sea of ​​red and white, chanting her name and phrases in Polish, cheering her with every word. Swiatek said during the interview that her rise in esports began during the pandemic when few fans attended events. But she looked at home and was perfectly comfortable in the crowd and in the limelight.

When host Chris McKendry mentioned to Swiatek that she had never seen a crowd quite like the one assembled, except perhaps Rafael Nadal, Swiatek confidently and perhaps unconsciously shared where she too sees her current place in the sport.

“And for Serena.”

https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34564240/iga-swiatek-us-open-victory-cements-status-dominant-force-women-tennis Iga Swiatek’s US Open victory cements her status as the dominant force in women’s tennis

Emma Bowman

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