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

NEW YORK – Immediately after Ons Jabeur’s forehand went out of bounds, Iga Swiatek fell to the ground, covering his eyes with his hands. The Polish flag flew and the slogan “Iga” erupted around the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Swatek just won the U.S. Open, her third career Grand Slam title and second of the year, with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Jaber, at that moment proved she It has become a long-awaited dominant force in women’s tennis.

But even she looked shocked when she received the trophy after the game—and not just because she received a check for $2.6 million.

“I’m glad it wasn’t cash,” she joked.

After proving that she is the best clay court in the world, there are still questions about her hard court game.

“I didn’t have high expectations, especially before this game, it was a challenging period,” said Swatek on the court, wearing a new Asics jacket emblazoned with “1GA” and Three stars represent each major victory. “Coming back from winning a Grand Slam is tricky, even if Roland Garros is second [major title]I need to stay calm and focus on the goal.

“It’s challenging. New York is loud, it’s crazy. There’s so much temptation in the city, I’ve met so many inspiring people, and I’m proud of the way I’ve handled it mentally.”

While Serena Williams’ impending retirement made headlines in the tournament’s first week, Swatek proved in her impressive two weeks that she’s the clear heir to Williams’ former Tour superstar role . There have been others who have enjoyed steady success in recent years — including Naomi Osaka, who has won four hard-court Grand Slams, and the recently retired Ashley Barty, who has won majors at various venues — — but the time of Swatek has come. No matter where she plays, she’s a contender.

It was Swatek’s seventh title of the season — the most by a woman on tour since Williams in 2014 — and Swatek became the first since Angelique Kerber in 2016 A woman who has won multiple Grand Slams in the same year. Swatek, who has held No. 1 since April, now has twice as many points as Jabeur, who will return to No. 2 on Monday.

Even a distraught Jaber fought back to force a second-set tiebreak after an unbalanced first set that lasted only 29 minutes, acknowledging that the US Open champion belonged to Swatek.

“I worked really hard, but Iga didn’t make it easy for me,” Jaber said on the court. “She should have won today. I don’t like her very much right now, but that’s okay.”

The Polish star’s rise over the past two years has been incredible. Swatek, a former junior champion who arrived at Roland Garros in 2020 for the French Open postponed due to the pandemic, is ranked 54th in the world with little attention. She left Paris as a champion.

After her breakthrough victory, Swatek was candid about her desire for more stability, recognizing that this has been a recent struggle for many in the women’s game. She has fulfilled that hope. The 21-year-old is now the youngest three-time Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008.

In 2022 alone, she has a staggering 37-match winning streak, dropping just one set during her French Open win. In the final, she only lost four games to up-and-coming superstar Coco Gough.

Swatek has shown over the summer that she is not as comfortable on hard courts as she is on clay, and has publicly expressed her dissatisfaction with the ball she used in her swing at last month’s U.S. Open, but she found that when it mattered most The way to win. She needs three sets in two matches, in the fourth round and in the semi-finals, on her way to the final. She later said the challenges gave her more confidence.

“It gives you a little bit of confidence that you can handle any situation,” Swatek said Thursday. “Yeah, maybe some people just believe that next time you know what skills to pick and what solutions are there, kinda. It’s your next The best experience a game can have, of course.”

On Saturday, her confidence was fine. She’s far from perfect — recording more unforced errors than winners, as she has done in every match of the tournament — but even as Jabir upped her game in the second set, she Also found a way to win.

Off the field, Swatek has become one of the more outspoken leaders on the tour, just as Williams has been over the years. She has been wearing a Ukrainian flag ribbon on her hat since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has organized several exhibitions to raise money for humanitarian aid and awareness, including at the “Tennis for Peace” event before the U.S. Open at Louise Armstrong Stadium. Although she’s naturally introverted, having a career seems to energize Swatek, giving her something more to do than just herself.

Shortly after Swatek’s win Saturday night, she took the trophy to ESPN’s live interview outside Arthur Ashe. Thousands of fans gathered behind her in red and white, chanting her name and phrases in Polish and applauding her every word. Swatek said in the interview that her rise in the sport began during the pandemic, when there were few fans attending events. But she looked at home, completely relaxed in the crowd and the spotlight.

When host Chris McKendry mentioned to Swiatek that she had never seen a crowd like this, Swiatek confidently interrupted, perhaps subconsciously, to share her feelings about her current role in this project, except for Rafael Nadal. View of position in motion.

“And Serena.”

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