Iga Swiatek Dominates in French Open Final for Championship

PARIS — After winning her first French Open out of season in October as an unseeded teenager, Iga Swiatek proved that was anything but a fluke by winning the title again in the spring as an overwhelming favorite.

Swiatek, now 21 and the No. 1 seed from Poland, cemented her status as the game’s dominant player by defeating Coco Gauff of the United States, 6-1, 6-3, in Saturday’s women’s final in just over an hour.

She even beat the rain, closing out the victory with thunder rumbling in the final game over the main Philippe Chatrier Court with its open roof.

Swiatek has been an irresistible force on every surface for the last four months, racking up lopsided victories with her cap pulled low and her intensity cranked up high. But red clay remains her favorite playground, as it does for her role model Rafael Nadal, who will take aim at his 14th French Open title on Sunday.

But Saturday belonged to Swiatek and her own heavy-topspin forehand. She took command of the final from the start to win her 35th straight match and sixth straight tournament.

“I think in 2020, the main thing that I felt was confusion, because I have never really believed 100 percent that I can actually win a Grand Slam,” Swiatek said.

This time, victory was no surprise, but she understood on a more granular level what the task required.

“How every puzzle has to come together and basically every aspect of the game has to work,” she said, the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen shimmering by her side. “With that awareness, I was even more happy and even more proud of myself, because in 2020 I just felt that I’m lucky, you know. This time, I felt like I really did the work.”

Her winning streak is the longest on the WTA Tour in more than 20 years, equaling Venus Williams’s 35-match streak in 2000.

“Strategy-wise, I mean, going in, honestly it was tough to come up with something with someone who hasn’t lost in a while,” Gauff said.

Gauff, in her first Grand Slam singles final at age 18, sat in her chair courtside with tears streaming down her face after the defeat. She had not dropped a set in the previous rounds of the tournament, but she also had not faced a player ranked in the top 30. The step up proved too big as Gauff lost to Swiatek for the third time in three encounters. She has yet to win a set against her and never threatened to do so on Saturday, breaking her serve just once and losing her own five times.

Swiatek won more than 50 percent of points when returning both Gauff’s first and second serves, and won 62 of the 101 points overall in the final.

Gauff can still leave Paris a champion. She and her compatriot Jessica Pegula will play in the women’s doubles final on Sunday against Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic of France. But Saturday was a deflating day for Gauff, eager to make her parents and two younger brothers in the stands proud. Still, she spoke with poise and perspective through the tears at the awards ceremony and at her post-match news conference.

“I think that’s really where most of the tears come from, because I wanted it so bad for myself, and I know they wanted it so bad for me,” Gauff said.

Swiatek also choked up as she listened to the Polish national anthem. “I just told Coco, ‘Don’t cry,’ and what am I doing now?” Swiatek said with a smile at Gauff before doing her best to comfort her. “Coco, when I was your age, it was my first year on tour, and I had no idea what I was doing.”

Swiatek also offered her support to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, a message that the crowd applauded at length.

“Stay strong, because the war is still there,” said Swiatek, who wears a ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag on her cap and whose country, Poland, has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees.

Swiatek, an avid reader and excellent student during her high school years, is a particularly thoughtful and engaged young champion. Gauff, the prodigy from Delray Beach, Fla., is a particularly thoughtful and engaged runner-up, eager to use her sports success to speak out on social issues, such as gun violence in the United States, which she did after her semifinal victory over Martina Trevisan on Thursday.

Just four years ago, they both played in the French Open girls tournament, with Gauff winning the title and Swiatek losing in the semifinals. But Swiatek, nearly three years Gauff’s elder, has stormed to the front of the women’s game since then with her aggressive style, powerful package of skills and detail-oriented approach to training.

Her reign follows the abdication of Ashleigh Barty, the No. 1 player who retired abruptly in March at age 25 as reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion. Swiatek, who remains in contact with Barty and never beat her on tour in singles, said she would have liked the opportunity to continue facing her.

“I was thinking about that yesterday,” Swiatek said. “I would love to be in better shape than I was when I was playing against her and just have more variety and more abilities to win.”

For now, she has no clear rival at the top and will have nearly twice as many ranking points as the No. 2, Anett Kontaveit, on Monday.

Swiatek is one of the first tennis players to travel with a full-time performance psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, and she emphasizes mental health. She said she made five visits to the Bois de Boulogne in Paris during the tournament to find green spaces and peace. Despite finishing in the top 10 last year, she switched coaches in the off-season, hiring Tomasz Wiktorowski, who was working as a television analyst in Poland after many years of coaching the retired Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska.

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