meIn the last notable tournament before the French Open, Iga Swiatek won her fifth title in as many tournaments. at the Italian Open. It was a result everyone expected, but even so when the final back of Ons Jabeur hit the net Swiatek fell to her knees and sobbed into the clay.
Swiatek’s tears were not a dramatic expression of her joy, but rather the immediate release of nerves, of tension, of being reminded ten times a day of her winning streak, all in addition to her own high expectations. If that’s what it took from her to win an Italian Open, it’s hard to imagine the effort it took to stay calm for six matches under grand slam pressure and move on to the. French Open again final.
Swiatek’s 34-match winning streak is remarkable in itself, the combined second-highest of the 21st century along with Serena Williams and one behind Venus Williams’ 35 count in 2000. While the others faced tougher rivals, the circumstances are particularly awkward due to its timing. . Arriving at the French Open with all her 28 wins at WTA tournaments seemed such an extra burden that some believed that a loss in Rome might have helped her manage the pressure.
As she sailed the draw, Swiatek handled the occasion in different ways. She talked about the value of keeping expectations low, taking things day after day, even though her ambitions make it so difficult. She was sincere about the possible outcomes here, including the fact that losing is an option to be prepared for, one that would not be a tragedy.
Basically, she kept herself honest, and the result is that she played her best tennis of the tournament deep into the event, arming herself with an incredible opportunity to put a historic mark on the final. At 21, it is clear that her second French Open title later her explosive victory in 2020 could herald an era of domination in Paris.
Under most other circumstances, the main story of this finale would be Coco Gauff. She was widely advertised as a prodigy during her childhood, then she started international stardom at Wimbledon in 2019, the deafening exaltation. Even then, there were no guarantees of her future success. It is deeply impressive that as the youngest grand slam finalist since 2004, she is still taking these steps at such a young age.
Gauff enjoyed a nice draw, her highest-ranked opponent the No 31 seed Elise Mertens, but she handled it brilliantly and without dropping a set. On Friday, she also reached the doubles final along with Jessica Pegula. As the world number 10 in doubles compared to number 23 in singles, and in her second final, she is technically a more successful doubles player.
But the most important aspect of her career was the growth she showed after three years on the tour. Gauff talked about how her perspective has changed, and now she understands that winning or losing tennis matches is not the end of the world. Her more relaxed outlook was clearly liberating.
Gauff is in the process of molding an executable game and she has a lot of skills to present against Swiatek, who leads the head-to-head 2-0. She possesses a huge and increasingly accurate first serve, high quality back, some of the best defenses in the game and the ability to play with a variety of both sides. Her game is still a work in progress, however, especially her batting handball, which Swiatek will beat with his own. If Swiatek manages her nerves, Gauff will have to play at a level she has yet to reach, only to compete, but she has at least given herself the best chance to do so.
However more than anything, this will be a finale played in a great spirit with the belief that there are many more such duels to come. Four years ago, Gauff reached the junior final of the 2018 French Open and then watched as Swiatek lost by a match point up in the semi-final to her double partner, Caty McNally. Gauff won the title that year, and a few weeks later Swiatek won the junior singles title at Wimbledon.
“I don’t know her very well, but I know her because she was probably shorter, and now that she’s number 1, and I’ll say that, nothing has really changed except her tennis,” Gauff said. “But behind the scenes, she’s as nice as I think you see in the press conferences. I think that’s really important and rare to see, so I certainly congratulate her on that. ”