US Open – Day 13: Swiatek secures third Major title, more history with straight-sets win over Jabeur

Iga Swiatek of Poland celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia during their Women’s Singles Final match on Day...

A blistering start, ominous middle and shaky finish. World no. 1 Iga Swiatek held firm under pressure as the crowd intensified and Ons Jabeur’s level increased late on during a hard-fought 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) US Open final victory over the Wimbledon runner-up – the 21-year-old’s third Major title and second this season, while not at her best. What does that say for the chasing pack?

Swiatek repels Jabeur fightback, clinches maiden US Open title

Iga Swiatek of Poland reacts after defeating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia during their Women’s Singles Final match on Day Thirteen of the 2022 US Open at...

Thrill and the agony: Swiatek soaks in the moment while Jabeur reflects on another missed chance

Swiatek [1] bt. Jabeur [5] 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)

  • Swiatek seals second Major title of 2022 – after French Open – becomes first player since Angelique Kerber six years prior to win multiple Grand Slam titles in the same season
  • “Wanna thank the crowd for cheering me on, really tried but Iga didn’t make it easy for me, she deserved to win today. Backed up the Wimbledon result, gonna keep working hard, get that title sometime soon, this is just the beginning,” Jabeur says afterwards
  • Swiatek (21y, 104d) is youngest three-time Slam champ since Maria Sharapova (2008), this result means she’s already eligible for Hall of Fame post-career, now has 10-match winning streak vs. top-10 opposition after wins over Pegula, Sabalenka and Jabeur
  • “Not expecting a lot, such a challenging time, always tricky to win a Slam… I had to stay composed, focused. I’m proud I can unite people with our sport, it’s getting popular at home, have people who know how to guide me, wouldn’t be so well-prepared without them,” Swiatek on her fortnight, those being inspired in Poland and praising her team

Iga Swiatek bemoaned the balls, is uncomfortable in New York’s loud city, often won ugly and didn’t play her best tennis this fortnight, but produced when it mattered most in another Final en route to a hard-fought straight-sets win, this time against Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur.

Her 10th career title – seventh of 2022 alone – as well as winning 20 consecutive sets in finals, this one threatened to need a decider after the Polishwoman appeared distracted by untimely crowd noise as she held break points for a 4-0 second set advantage.

Although pre-match pictures showed support in full flow for both Poland and Tunisia, the New York crowd were quickly and unapologetically behind Jabeur, the first African-Arab to reach such dizzying heights at this tournament. They wanted to see more, and didn’t want a procession.

Understandably so, given Swiatek’s fearsome start – a 12-2 run to lead 3-0 in no time at all – Jabeur looked flustered, much like Caroline Garcia did against her in Thursday’s semi-final.

It was far from an ideal start and without the best-of-five set cushion men have to work with, you can quickly find matches disappear without a trace if you can’t arrest a slump.

She did though, however briefly, as Swiatek’s struggles to dominate longer rallies this fortnight would see her making errors had their exchanges been repeatedly prolonged.

Committing five unforced errors in the first four games, despite leading 3-1, gave credence to this thought process. But as the Tunisian found out, it was easier said than done – especially with an inconsistent first serve percentage like Frances Tiafoe experienced less than 24 hours earlier.

Jabeur’s first serve consistency was duly pounced upon, as evidenced by this graphic mid-match

They exchanged breaks after Jabeur finally got the better of a rally, before producing four winners – including a fantastic forehand down-the-line – but her success was short-lived.

Swiatek responded, holding firm on serve as Jabeur’s errors piled up, and the 28-year-old was both being outmanoevured and punished for her shot predictability.

These stats rather told the story during a 6-2 set:
Swiatek (first serves in: 19/21, 90%, won 63%) — Jabeur (10/21, 48%, won 20%)

Swiatek’s line-kissing groundstrokes continued to start set two, as she punished Jabeur’s untimely drop shots and continued chipping away at the world no. 2’s armour.

1-0 quickly became 3-0, 40-15 after producing some determined shot defence – like against Aryna Sabalenka – from corner-to-corner, posing questions Jabeur couldn’t convincing answer.

Then came the shift.

Having saved three break points to finally hold at 3-1, Ons broke back in the next game as Swiatek became unsettled at the crowd noise and couldn’t shake herself quickly enough.

They exchanged breaks again – successive Swiatek backhand winners, Jabeur hitting down-the-line shots of her own – and it was finely poised at 4-4.

Against most others on tour, Jabeur probably would’ve already won the second set as her ball-striking improved and confidence was starting to seep into shots.

Swiatek’s defensive skills from the baseline, forcing her to win points three or four times, made their exchanges increasingly tense. This foreshadowed what followed as the pressure told late.

Swiatek’s shot placement, often in the corners, left Jabeur frequently scrambling on returns

Swiatek was shaky on serve as the scoreboard pressure returned her way, missing a makeable volley then being outfoxed at the net by a well-timed Jabeur drop shot.

Her first double-fault came – a sign of the ever-increasing nerves – though she saved three break points with more shot defence to repel a handful of crosscourt groundstrokes.

5-4 became 5-5 and soon enough, Jabeur was serving to stay in the final once more. Swiatek changed racquet on championship point, though it mattered little as 107 and 108mph serves helped Jabeur get back to basics, as into a tiebreaker they went.

It was nip-and-tuck, fluctuating with both appearing to tighten.

Jabeur started well with a down-the-line backhand winner, yet was remonstrating angrily at her box during the changeover with a 4-2 deficit to overturn. She did just that, winning three straight points – only to see Swiatek slam a 84mph forehand past her in the corner to level.

A 79mph second serve was duly pounced upon and on her second championship point, Swiatek sank to the ground in disbelief as Jabeur’s 33rd unforced error capped the show in one hour 51.

Analysis, what’s next for both?

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia celebrates with the runner-up trophy after being defeated by Iga Swiatek of Poland during their Women’s Singles Final match on...

That familiar, frustrating feeling: Jabeur acknowledges the crowd with her runner-up plate

Jabeur returns to world no. 2 after another memorable fortnight, while now ending the year 0-2 in two Major finals. Yet just four months ago still hadn’t got to one after a decade on the pro tour.

This one is different than the three-set defeat by Elena Rybakina at SW19, because while she started well there and mid-match adjustments were made to match (and eventually overwhelm) her, it was the opposite here – against a better player – and was duly punished for that nervy start.

To put that into perspective, two runner-up finishes at Grand Slams are already better achievements than seven others in the world’s top 10, while the 28-year-old’s results post-lockdown show she’s clearly coming into the peak years of her career now.

A 3-7 record in Finals doesn’t read well on paper, especially when Swiatek (Rome, US Open) was the only player to beat her in straight-sets. Can she problem-solve and adjust when her opponent’s level increases, or they adopt different tactics to stifle her rhythm?

Post-match the Prime Video analysts said she needs to add variety and improve her movement if she’s to maximise her chance of winning a Grand Slam while the iron is still hot. That observation feels too simplistic though, considering how she’s got to two finals already.

What I said, back in mid-July after the Wimbledon defeat

The buzzword for Jabeur during her post-match press conference was a sense of perspective, this being her first Major final after all. At 27, she’s not the oldest nor youngest in the WTA’s top 10 at present and has developed consistency considerably over recent seasons.

When it comes to the biggest matches though, experiences like these should come in handy. As time passes and more of these opportunities arise, Ons cannot afford for them to resemble scar tissue if she’s to achieve the big dreams she has…

But while other, younger contenders continue making incremental improvements and others study the tape from Jabeur’s game finding ways to beat her, it’ll be interesting to see how she takes this latest defeat in stride, whether it was against the world no. 1 or not. Speaking of…

Iga Swiatek of Poland talks during a press conference after defeating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia after their Women’s Singles Final match on Day Thirteen...

Three and counting: Swiatek answers questions during her post-match press conference

Swiatek has reached the stage where everything she does is being magnified and naturally, critics quickly highlight or nitpick things that can be perceived to inconvenience opponents.

Take the racquet change decision on championship point, for example. Considering this match quickly became a pro-Jabeur crowd, she was greeted with booed as she delayed Jabeur to replace her racquet on such a delicate point in their encounter. How could she do such a thing?

The original poster deleted his tweet, but a flavour of the replies say all you need to know

Swiatek has won seven titles this term – Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, Roland Garros and now the US Open. Besides the two Majors, Indian Wells was the only other event I covered with any detail in the final stages, and she was made to work hard for that title too.

This metronomic winning is, for what of a better word, boring for those who crave the constant, often times exciting unpredictability that women’s tennis has long provided in recent years.

When she’s able to win ugly like a few times this fortnight, they’d better get used to it.

Looking ahead

Last year’s US Open champion Raducanu, the aforementioned Rybakina and Ajla Tomljanovic are among the seeds in Slovenia as the Portoroz tournament begins shortly, while action features in Chennai elsewhere as two WTA 250 events take place this coming week.

Big tournaments between now and season’s end
w/c September 19 — WTA 500: Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan
October 3 — WTA 500: Ostrava Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic
Oct. 10 — WTA 500: Southern California Open in San Diego, US
Oct. 17 — WTA 1000: Mexican Open in Guadalajara, Mexico
Oct. 31 — Year-end championships: WTA Finals in Fort Worth, US

One more to go

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain embraces Casper Ruud of Norway during their Men's Singles final match at the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on April 03,...

The pair share an embrace during their Miami final, which Alcaraz won in April

Men’s singles final, 9pm Sunday BST
Casper Ruud [5] vs. Carlos Alcaraz [3]

This year’s US Open tournament has been an unforgettable one and there’s still one more day left to finish! I’ll have a detailed report as Ruud-Alcaraz battle for world no. 1 as well as a maiden Slam title, so stay tuned to for the latest. Thanks for reading.

Picture source: Getty Images — quotes via Amazon Prime Video unless hyperlinked otherwise

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