By Jane Voigt, Tennis With An Accent
American Coco Gauff couldn’t keep her shots deep enough to dull the power generated by Iga Swiatek during Saturday’s women’s singles championship match at the French Open. Gauff tried, in her first final at a Grand Slam event, to play power to power, but her keen tennis skills could not penetrate the well-oiled shot progressions Swiatek intuitively demonstrated. After little more than an hour, the Polish top seed fell to her knees in gratitude and exhaustion, having won her second title in Paris, 6-1, 6-3.
“You [team] are working hard. I think we deserve to be here. Thanks for your full support,” Swiatek told fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier during the awards ceremony.
Swiatek’s win ties Venus Williams’ consecutive match winning streak at 35, a mark for the most recent women’s tennis winning spree which stood since 2000. Martina Hingis – a winner of multiple major singles titles in her own right – won 37 straight a few years before Venus won 35. That 37-mathc mark is next on the list as Swiatek climbs the ladder.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have won 43 and 42 consecutive matches respectively, shining a bright light on the chance that Swiatek could challenge those records.
“This time I worked hard to get here, the pressure was big,” Swiatek continued. “All the Polish flags I see there. Yeah, I’d love to be back.”
Swiatek won her first French Open in 2020, beating American Sofia Kenin in the final. Swiatek didn’t drop a set then, and she lost only one set this year, when everyone was gunning for her.
The loss left Gauff emotionally exhausted. She watched Swiatek run to her player box, hugging her entire team and family. Before the match, Gauff said she would not be changed by the outcome of this final. Nonetheless, the emotions were difficult to hold back. She is the youngest player, at 18, to compete in a Grand Slam singles final since Maria Sharapova in 2004 at Wimbledon.
“This is a first time for me,” Gauff said on court, breaking down in tears. “What you’ve done [Swiatek] on tour has been amazing and you totally deserve it. Maybe I’ll get a win off you one of these days.”
Swiatek was lit up from the get go. She went up 4-0 in 19 minutes. Gauff made a push, but Swiatek’s momentum, even in the early moments, accelerated rapidly and fueled an unstoppable onslaught of powerful play from the ground, coupled with precise and efficient serving.
Swiatek won 73% of her first serves and 72% of the points off her first serve, an astonishing set of serving stats. She did not double fault in the match. She double faulted only five times in the whole tournament compared to 33 by Gauff.
“Sorry I couldn’t get this one,” Gauff said. “Most of all you guys supported me when I was down match point and that means a lot.”
Gauff did hold her own “terre battue” ground shot-for-shot against Swiatek several times, especially midway through the first set and early in the second as signs of hope appeared. Yet no matter the skill Gauff showed and no matter how well she moved the ball around the court, Swiatek teed off for winners into the corner ad and deuce pockets.
“I know I’ll get this opportunity again,” Gauff told NBC on court, following the awards ceremony. “I really tried my best to win. I’d change the score, but I wouldn’t change the decisions I made on the court. I have so many people who love me and I really wanted to do this for them.”
Both women have been vocal about international issues such as gun violence (Gauff) and the war in Ukraine (Swiatek). After Gauff defeated Martina Trevisan in the semifinals, she signed the TV camera with the message, “Peace. End Gun Violence.” In her acceptance speech Saturday, Swiatek said, “Stay strong Ukranians. The world is still there.” She has had a blue and yellow ribbon pinned to her hat throughout the tournament as a symbol of commitment to Ukraine and her own home country, Poland, which borders the war-torn nation.
Swiatek was the woman to beat from day one of this French Open. She was on a 28-match winning streak a fortnight ago. She had won 5 titles – Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome. In Rome, she dropped the fewest games (21) on her way to the title, a record for 2022 WTA tennis.
In her post-match press conference, Swiatek opened up about her rise in women’s tennis, her winning streak, and the pressure she accepted as part of the journey. She has been working with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz since September of 2020.
“Well, I try not to hold it inside,” Swiatek said. “I try to talk with the team, the whole team about it [about being the favorite]. I have people around that I can trust. But, for sure, the pep talks that I have before the match are really helpful, both from the coach [Tomasz Wikrorowski] and Daria.”
Before she takes the court, Swiatek pumps herself up by listening to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Guns ‘N Roses.
“I use music to kind of have something that’s going to get my brain busy and relaxed before the match. But also when I want to be energetic, it really helps.”
For those around the world who watched this women’s singles championship from Paris, they couldn’t agree more. Energetic she was from start to finish.