Queen Of Queens: Swiatek Wins US Open

Iga Swiatek (photo: Simon Bruty/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 11, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

A new US Open singles champion has been crowned this year. The Queen of Queens is Iga Swiatek, the World No. 1 from Poland, who lived up to her ranking Saturday before nearly 23,859 fans that packed sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium on a beautiful, late-summer afternoon at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

The two-time French Open champion on clay became a three-time major winner – and showed her bona fides on a hard-court surface, too. Swiatek, thoroughly enjoying the moment, beat World No. 5 and fifth seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-2, 7-6 (5), in 1 hour and 51 minutes to win her first US Open crown and seventh overall title of the year. She’s the first woman to achieve this feat since Serena Williams in 2014 and the first top seed to garner the New York title since Williams eight years ago. Swiatek is the 21st No. 1 seed to win the US Open women’s singles title in the Open Era (since 1968).

Going in, Swiatek, 21, who earlier this season strung together a remarkable 37-match winning streak and won six straight tournaments, was the favorite – even though she and Jabeur had split their four previous matches and the Tunisian was the third Top 10 player the Polish star faced in this New York fortnight. Now, Swiatek has won her past 10 finals in straight sets and her final overall record in this year’s four majors is a superb 21-2. After winning titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and Paris, now she’s won in New York, too. Swiatek is also the first Polish woman to conquer the New York major.

Although there were some struggles in the first six rounds, Swiatek always found an efficient way to win. How did she do it? How did she manage to be so dominant and consistently good over seven rounds spread across two weeks, especially after arriving in Flushing Meadows with a record of just 4-4 after her lengthy winning streak ended in July?

“I needed to stay composed and focus on the goals,” Swiatek told ESPN‘s Mary Joe Fernandez in an on-court interview during the trophy ceremony.

“It’s really mind-blowing for me. I’m really proud I could handle it mentally.”

Swiatek, the 10th-youngest champion at the US Open since 2000, became the first player to win two Grand Slam titles in a single since Angelique Kerber in 2016 and the first since Williams in 2013 to reach the French Open and US Open finals in the same year.

Fighting back tears after being on the losing end of back-to-back majors – after losing the Wimbledon Championships title to Elena Rybakina in three sets – Jabeur, who was cheered on by 1994 US Open champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in her box, said in her on-court interview: “I really tried, but Iga didn’t make it easy for me. I don’t like her very much now, but it’s OK.”

Jabeur, 28, came into the final as the first Arab woman and first African woman to reach a Grand Slam final. There will be better days ahead for the passionate and likable trail blazer.

“I am sure there are many finals coming for me,” Jabeur said later in her press conference.

In a match between the two best women’s players of 2022, Swiatek jumped ahead 3-0 in the first set after just eight minutes by winning 12 of the first 14 points through her ability to focus along with her twin strengths of depth and pace. Her heavy topspin forehand was her ally that allowed her to dictate the match early on.

Swiatek won the 30-minute opening set 6-2 by winning the first three and last three games. While Jabeur settled down after a horrible start, Swiatek looked just too good. Swiatek was impressive on both offense and defense throughout the final.

Later, like the first set, Swiatek relentlessly jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the second set. She continued to be ruthless on return, putting plenty of pressure on Jabeur with her powerful ground-stroke attack and made it tough for the Tunisian to hold serve.

Although Jabeur fought back and managed to get the second set to a tie-break, Swiatek proved to be the better player and handled all of the pressure moments best. Trailing 5-4 in the tie-break, Swiatek won the last three points of the match and victory belonged to her on her second match-point opportunity. Soon, she fell down on her back and celebrated another major triumph.

Swiatek dominated the final statistically, hitting 19 winners to 30 unforced errors, converting five of 12 break points and outpointing her opponent 81-66. Jabeur countered with 14 winners and 33 unforced errors but was able to break Swiatek just three times in nine tries. Both players won less than 60 percent of their first-serve points.

During her press conference, Swiatek said that at the beginning of the 2022 season, “I realized that maybe I can have some good results on WTA events. I also made it to the semifinal of the Australian Open. But I wasn’t sure if I was on the level yet to win actually a Grand Slam, especially on US Open where the surface is so fast.

“It’s something that I wasn’t expecting for sure. It’s also like a confirmation for me that sky is the limit. I’m proud, also surprise a little bit, just happy that I was able to do that.”

Now, with a solid team in place, Swiatek has positioned herself nicely as the new dominant figure of women’s tennis after winning what was likely the last major featuring the 23-time major champion Williams. With her latest victory, it improve Swiatek’s tour-level win-loss record to 55-7 in 2022 and her seven WTA titles this season are unmatched. With three major titles, she needs one more to pull even with Naomi Osaka, 24, who has won the Australian Open twice and the US Open twice, as the most decorated player of her generation.

In addition to hoisting the champion’s trophy and solidifying her hold on the No. 1 ranking, Swiatek won first-prize money of $2.6 million dollars, while Jabeur received a runner-up prize of $1.3 million dollars.

Aussie pair Sanders and Peers win mixed doubles title

Fourth-seeded Australian pair Storm Sanders and John Peers won the US Open mixed doubles title with a 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 victory over unseeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Aussie team became the first from their country to win a Grand Slam mixed doubles title since Jarmila Wolfe and Matthew Ebden at the 2013 Australian Open.

Sanders, 28, and Peers, 34, are also the first Australian team to win the US Open mixed doubles title, and they did it in their first major appearance as a team. They outpointed their opponents 68-56. Now, they are committed to playing together in the next major at the Australian Open next January.

“I can’t believe we are Grand Slam champions, that’s crazy,” Sanders said in addressing Peers during the trophy ceremony, a day after she was knocked out of the women’s doubles semifinals. “So, thank you so much for playing with me. We’ve been trying to set it up for the past year and I really enjoyed every moment on court with you.”

Peers replied: “Stormy, we got one! Well done. It’s been a pleasure this week and a lot of fun, so hopefully we’ve got a few more coming up at some point.”

Saturday’s US Open results

Sunday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

• At age 21, Iga Swiatek has become the youngest woman to win her third Grand Slam title since Maria Sharapova (20) in 2008. She is also just the ninth player in the Open Era (since 1968) to win her third major before turning 22. Of the other eight, five of them – Justin Henin, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert – are in the Hall of Fame. The other three – Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams – are certain future Hall of Famers.

• When the WTA Tour rankings are updated on Monday, Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur will be ranked No. 1 and No. 2. They are the top two players in the Race to the WTA Finals standings, too – and they’ve accumulated the most victories on the WTA Tour over the past two years.

“Quotable …”

“I have nothing to regret because I did everything possible. I wish I served little bit better today. It would have helped me a lot. Iga, how she plays in finals … It’s very tough to beat her. I will keep positive and work on the things that was missing today.”

– World No. 5 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, during her post-match press conference, looking back on her straight-set loss to World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland.