Swiatek Wins 34th Straight, Reaches Second Roland Garros Final

Iga Swiatek (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 2, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

At the conclusion of her 64-minute 6-2, 6-1 French Open semifinal victory Thursday afternoon in Paris, Iga Swiatek thoughtfully signed the camera lens “Grateful to be in the final again ❤️.” It was heartfelt and a reminder of how much Roland Garros has meant to her.

In 2020, Swiatek was an unlikely Roland Garros champion, just 19, unseeded and ranked 54th, who came out of nowhere. She raced to the title by taking on and beating all comers. This time, the 21-year-old Polish star is the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the tournament’s top seed. She’s become the Queen of Tennis in 2022 by garnering five straight WTA titles across the worldwide tennis landscape – from Doha, Indian Wells and Miami to Stuttgart and Rome.

Now, after convincingly winning her Roland Garros semifinal match over No. 20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, much to the delight of the Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd, Swiatek has parlayed her success into a 34-match winning streak – tied for second-longest of the 21st century – to prove her bona fides. With it all, she’s into her second Roland Garros title match and second major final.

Swiatek played like a complete player against her 20th-ranked opponent. From 2-all in the opening set, she took control and never let up. Swiatek continued to attack, hitting winners with authority from both her forehand and backhand sides. By the end, Swiatek had outpointed Kasatkina 59-29, hit 22 winners to 13 unforced errors and converted five of 10 break points. She placed 70 percent of her first serves in play and won 79 percent (22 of 28) of those points, losing just 11 points total on her serve. Meanwhile, Kasatkina mustered just 10 winners and made 24 unforced errors. The Russian didn’t play badly, she was simply outplayed.

In the opening set, Swiatek won three straight games to break a 2-all deadlock and put it away with a solid backhand winner. Soon, she found herself a double-break lead ahead in the second set. Swiatek broke for 5-1 with a second-shot forehand winner off a weak second serve by Kasatkina. Then, Swiatek set up match point with a forehand winner that capped a nine-shot rally. Finally, she wrapped up her 34th straight victory with her first ace of the contest. Swiatek captured the final five games of the match.

“It’s a pretty special moment, I’m really emotional,” Swiatek said during her on-court interview with Eurosport‘s Marion Bartoli. “I’m grateful to be healthy and to be able to play my game. I love playing here.”

Win number thirty-four tied Swiatek for the second-longest WTA winning streak since 2000 with Serena Williams, who accomplished her feat in 2013. She also extended her winning streak against Top-20 competition to 13. She admitted to Bartoli during her on-court interview that she drew inspiration from listening to music by Led Zeppelin before the semifinal. Now, a win in Saturday’s final would tie Swiatek with record holder Venus Williams, who achieved the 35-victory plateau in 2000.

Later, during an off-court interview with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim, Swiatek was asked how she imposed her will against Kasatkina. She replied: “I just wanted to be aggressive from the beginning and lead the match, and not let Daria play her game because I know how solid she is. … I’m really happy that I could play my tactics.”

Swiatek’s opponent in Saturday’s final will be No. 18 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, who is through to her first major final just three years after she played in her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon.

Gauff: Ends Trevisan’s Cinderella run, becomes youngest Paris finalist since 2001

The World No. 23 Gauff, who just celebrated her high school graduation at the beginning of the Paris fortnight, ended the Cinderella run of unseeded Martina Trevisan of Italy, 6-3, 6-1, in one hour and 28 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. While Gauff may have looked a bit flustered at the outset, she finished strong at the end and the American’s victory ended Trevisan’s 10-match winning streak.

After years of expectations, the mature, 18-year-old Gauff became the youngest player to reach the final at Roland Garros since Kim Clijsters in 2001 and youngest finalist at any Grand Slam since a then-17-year-old Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. She’s also the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam women’s singles final since Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open. She’s done it all without dropping any sets through her first six wins.

Against the 59th-ranked Trevisan on Thursday, she lost only four games. After coming on strong to win three straight easy games, in which she captured 12 of the last 14 points, to win the opening set, Gauff kept the pressure on her Italian opponent in the second set. Ahead 2-1, the American from Florida hit a backhand winner to cap a 20-shot rally that was part of a seven-deuce, 20-point marathon game. It lasted 14 minutes and 45 seconds, but it put Gauff ahead to stay 3-1.

In her last five service games, Gauff surrendered a mere four points. She served out the final game of the contest at love for the semifinal victory. Gauff won 74 percent (23 of 31) of her first-serve points, hit 14 winners to 20 unforced errors and converted six of 11 break-point chances. Trevisan countered with just 13 winners and made 36 unforced errors. She broke Gauff twice in five attempts.

At the end, both players shared a warm hug at the net before going their separate ways.

“I think I’m in a little bit of shock right now,” Gauff said during her on-court interview with Eurosport’s Alex Corretja, after she outpointed Trevisan 68-43. “I didn’t know how to react at the end of the match. I have no words to describe how I feel.”

Then, in addressing her appreciation for the support she received from the crowd, Gauff smiled and added: “Thank you guys for cheering me on.” 

Next, Gauff, who is appearing in just her 11th major, will attempt to become only the seventh player to win both the French Open girls’ and women’s singles titles. She was crowned the junior girls’ champion in 2018. Not to be forgotten, too, is this: Gauff is still alive in the women’s doubles competition. She and singles quarterfinalist Jessica Pegula of the United States will face Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend in an all-American semifinal on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, Gauff will oppose Swiatek, whom she has never beaten in two prior meetings (2021 Rome semifinals and 2022 Miami round of 16) in the championship final. She will be playing for the biggest prize of her young career. It remains to be seen whether Gauff has what it takes to get the better of Swiatek – but don’t count her out.

“Honestly, I wasn’t nervous going in today,” Gauff admitted. “I haven’t been nervous all tournament, which is a surprise. The only time I get a little nervous is in the morning. I go for a walk in the morning and it clears my head. After that, I feel great.”

Koolhof and Shibahara: Mixed doubles title is their first major crown

No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Ena Shibahara of Japan won the French Open mixed doubles title – the first major crown for both – with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway and Joran Vliegen of Belgium on Court Philippe-Chatrier Thursday afternoon.

The one hour, 29-minute title match ended with a service ace by Shibahara down the middle. It was the sixth ace of the match for the winners, who won 72 percent (26 of 36) of their first-serve points, converted three of four break points and outpointed their opponents 59-57.

Koolhof and Shibahara dug themselves out of a 2-5 hole and won five straight points to take the first-set tie-break. Then, they surged ahead a double-break lead 4-1 en route to winning the final in straight sets.

“It was our first time playing together and I’m so thankful [Wesley] asked me to play. It was so much fun,” Shibahara said during the trophy ceremony. Although she competes for Japan, Shibahara grew up in California and played collegiately at UCLA, where she was a sociology major. She was introduced to tennis at age seven.

“When I first started playing tennis – I have a family of five – we were playing mixed doubles. This was the first thing I played. So, this is very special for me to win the mixed doubles at a Grand Slam. This was just a dream come true this week.”

Ranked eighth in doubles, the win is Shibahara’s first major title of any kind after winning eight WTA Tour women’s doubles titles with fellow Japanese Shuko Aoyama. She’s the first Japanese player in 25 years to win a mixed doubles title in Paris, following the success of Rika Hiraki in 1997, who teamed with Mahesh Bhupathi of India.

Meanwhile, Koolhof has been a very successful men’s doubles player, winning 11 career titles, including four this year with Great Britain’s Neal Skupski.“Ena, thanks for saying yes to my request,” he said when it was his turn to speak during the trophy ceremony. “Loved playing with you and hope we’ll play more in the future.”

The mixed doubles final was also historic for Eikeri, ranked 43rd, who played in her first major final and was Norway’s first Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era.

Rojer and Arevalo-Gonzalez reach men’s doubles final

No. 12 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador reached the men’s doubles final with a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) victory over No. 16 seeds Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middlekoop of the Netherlands. At age 40, Rojer is the oldest Roland Garros men’s doubles finalist.

In Saturday’s title match, Rojer and Arevalo-Gonzalez, who are 23-11 as a team this season and have won two titles, will face unseeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States, who upset No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5. It will be the first major final for Dodig and Krajicek as a team.

Around Roland-Garros

• With both of the top seeds eliminated in the third round, the junior boys’ and girls’ French Open competitions appear wide open. Sixteen-year-old No. 10 seed Dino Prizmic of Croatia is just one of two seeds remaining in the boys’ draw going into Friday’s semifinal round. Meanwhile, No. 6 seed Liv Hovde of the United States, 16, is the highest seed remaining in the girls’ draw.

Thursday’s French Open results

Friday’s French Open order of play

Passing shots

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“I am prouder of what I have done off-court than as an athlete, even though my tennis career was not so bad, was it? I guess being the world’s No .1 and winning Grand Slam tournaments, including Roland-Garros, is quite an achievement. But I am prouder to have fought for gender equality. …

“Tennis would be my platform and, if I could become the world’s best player, it would be better to have my voice heard.

“I knew that, as a woman, it would be much harder, but it would be even harder for my colored-skin peers. I had the opportunity to make the world a slightly better place. It was a revelation; since then, it has guided my life and I have never changed course.”

Hall of Fame great Billie Jean King, 78, who will receive the Legion d’Honneur from French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace on Friday in honor of her fight for women’s sport, gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ individuals in sport. Fifty years ago, King won the French Open women’s singles title.