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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, September 10, 2022


World No. Iga Swiatek beat Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6(5), becoming the first Polish woman to win the US Open. It's the third career major crown for Swiatek.

Photo credit: @USOpen

NEW YORK—Squealing sneakers reverberated around Arthur Ashe Stadium.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek seldom spoke during this US Open final, but her feet were screaming with deep desire.

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A sharp Swiatek beat Ons Jabeur to the ball and repelled her late rally scoring a 6-2, 7-6(5) triumph to make history as the first Polish woman to win the US Open.

"I'm just super proud of myself because it wasn't easy match, even though at the beginning I was dominating, I knew it's going to be tight and I knew that Ons is going to use any mistake that I'm going to make," Swiatek said. "I didn't want to back out.

"In second set it got really physical action and I'm happy that I got my level of energy up little bit more so I could finish and be really precise in those moments where I needed that. Yeah, we played on a really good level today."

The 21-year-old Swiatek collected her third Grand Slam title, including her second of this season following her Roland Garros final conquest of American Coco Gauff, solidifying her status as the clear world No. 1.

At age 21, Swiatek is already a three-time Grand Slam champion and a player who possesses potential to do so much more.

"I'm just not expecting a lot especially before this tournament. It was such a challenging time," Swiatek told ESPN's Mary Joe Fernandez afterward. "Coming back from winning a Grand Slam it's always tricky.

"For sure this tournament was really challenging because it's New York, it's so loud, it's so crazy. So many temptations in the city. So many people I met who are inspiring it's really mind-blowing for me."

Talk about convincing closure.

An inspired Swiatek is invincible in finals. The world No. 1 scored her 10th consecutive straight-sets final victory, as she raised her 2022 record to 55-7.

Credit the fifth-seeded Jabeur for fighting back from a near blow-out at 0-3 down in the second set to make a match of this final.

Ultimately, Jabeur couldn't overcome her slow start or Swiatek's finishing forehand as the 28-year-old Tunisian suffered her second Grand Slam final loss in two months after bowing to Elena Rybakina in the Wimbledon final in July.

The charismatic Jabeur left fans smiling today and issued a parting vow as well.

"I want to thank the crowd for cheering me up and I really tried but Iga didn't make it easy for me," Jabeur told fans afterward. "She deserved to win today. I don't like her very much right now, but it's okay.

"Amazing two weeks backing up my final in Wimbledon. I know I'm going to keep working hard and will get that title sometime soon. It really means a lot. I try to push myself to do more. Getting a major is the goal. Hopefully I can inspire more and and more."

This US Open celebrated the farewell of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who fell to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday night.

Today, Swiatek became the top seed since Serena in 2014 to raise the US Open title trophy—and collected a champion's check fo $2.6 million. Swiatek swept her seventh title of the season becoming the first woman since former No. 1 Williams in 2014 to win seven or more championships in a single season.

The depth and pace of Swiatek's drives disarmed Jabeur at the outset as the top seed soared through nine of the first 11 games. The woman nicknamed "Minister of Happiness" from fellow Tunisians for her perpetually positive disposition saw her creative touch stifled by Swiatek's swarming movement and dangerous drives dancing near the baseline.

Tactically, Jabeur has had some success in her past wins over Swiatek playing low slice to the Pole's western grip forehand. Today, Jabeur tried to stand and slug with Swiatek from the baseline and Swiatek slammed her in the opening set.

"She come off like really strong and put a lot of pressure on me. That didn't help," Jabeur said. "I was trying to get in the match. It was very tough. And she was playing really good at certain times. I was trying to get into the rally. Hitting lines a lot of times, kind of annoying from her.

"Second set, again, I had my chances, she had hers. I was just coming back, coming back. At certain times it was kind of tough because I wish I had, like, that lead so I can continue and build on it.

"I know she didn't play as good as the first set at certain times, maybe I should have taken my shot. To be honest with you, 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."

The first African woman in the Open Era to contest the US Open final, Jabeur smacked eight aces, won 19 of 23 first-serve points and did not face a break point sweeping Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 to reach her second straight Grand Slam final. In contrast, Swiatek stormed back from 2-4 down in the final set, reeling off four games in a row to subdue 2021 semifinalist Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

A jittery Jabeur double-faulted into the tape to face triple break point in her opening service game. Swiatek streaked forward forcing an errant backhand pass to break for 2-0. 

Stretching her lead to 3-0, Swiatek was clubbing strikes into the corners with conviction. Jabeur shook free the nerves and fired through a four-winner game to break back for 2-3.

A ruthless Swiatek calmed that uprising streaking through the next three games to snatch a one-set lead after 30 minutes. 

Fast final starts are Swiatek's forte—the Roland Garros champion was riding a streak of nine consecutive straight-sets finals wins—and she burst out of the blocks quickly in the second set breaking for 2-0.

Facing a dire 0-3 deficit to start the second set, a desperate Jabeur responded with defiance. The Wimbledon finalist fought off double break point digging into hold and snap a six-game slide.

The crowd celebrated with a sustained roar and an energized Jabeur rode the wave of good will earning break points in the fifth game. Swiatek approached net and Jabeur beat her with a forehand pass breaking for 2-3.

For the second straight set, Jabeur served to level at 3-3 and for the second straight set Swiatek was not having it. Lasering a forehand down the line brought Swiatek break point. Swiatek unleashed a series of deep drives then banged her backhand down the line breaking for 4-2.

Showing her resilience, Jabeur came right back flattening out a forehand and drawing an error off the tape. The third straight break put the Tunisian trailblazer back on serve at 3-4.

Level at 4-all, Jabeur fell to the court make a defensive get off a Swiatek smash and pumped her fists while laying flat on her back firing up fans. Drawing Swiatek in with a dropper, Jabeur nudged a stretch pass in the ninth game. Swiatek sailed a forehand to face double break point.

The top seed saved both break points, but Jabeur forced a stretched backhand error for a third break point. Swiatek denied the third break point then elicited an errant return standing strong amid severe stress of a nine-minute service game holding for 5-4.

Serving to force a tiebreaker, Jabeur was jolted by a Swiatek return that lanced the baseline for love-30. Jabeur got back to 30-all but yanked a forehand wide to face championship point at the one hour, 41-minute mark.

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The top seed pulled out a new Tecnifibre racquet for the occasion, but Jabeur was not fazed fighting off championship point as the capacity crowd erupted with enthusiastic support. Jabeur jabbed a backhand down the line that helped her hold to force the tiebreaker.

A tense tiebreaker saw Jabeur exploit successive Swiatek errors to go up 5-4. The Tunisian was two points from a final set. Swiatek stepped up stung a bold forehand winner down the line to level the break and leave Jabeur recoiling from that winner in disbelief. Jabeur netted a forehand to give Swiatek a second championship point.

When Jabeur's final shot missed the mark, Swiatek tossed her racquet aside, fell flat on her back and soaked in the resounding cheers from Arthur Ashe Stadium fans.

Devoted Rafa Nadal fan Swiatek emulated her tennis hero by giving the US Open trophy a love bite. Look for Swiatek to leave her fingerprints and teeth marks all over more Grand Slam silverware.

Mastering the biggest Grand Slam stage in the sport, inspires even grander aspirations in Swiatek.

"At the beginning of the season I realized that maybe I can have some good results on WTA events. I also made it to semifinal of Australian Open," Swiatek said. "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 surprised little bit, just happy that I was able to do that."


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