NEW YORK – As good as she was this year, Iga Swiatek came to the US Open not sure what to expect.
She complained that women at Flushing Meadows, where she had never progressed past the fourth round, used different, slightly lighter tennis balls than the men. She was trying to adjust to the noise and distractions, the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. And she arrived with a record of just 4-4 since her 37-game winning streak ended in July.
None of that matters now. Solidifying her status as the new dominating figure in her sport by winning what will likely be the final tournament of Serena WilliamsSwiatek, who was in first place, overplayed in his career #5 Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (5) at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday to win their first US Open championship and third Grand Slam title overall.
Swiatek’s lopsided win improved her record in tour-level matches to 55-7 with seven trophies in 2022, both the best in the WTA.
The 21-year-old Pole won the French Open for the second time in June and has since become the first woman Angelica Kerber in 2016 to collect two major titles in a single season.
Jabeur, a 28-year-old Tunisian, is the first African and first Arab to reach a Grand Slam final and participated in her second consecutive. But she is 0-2 at this point and finished second at Wimbledon in July.
On this sunny, 29.4C afternoon, it didn’t help that Jabeur had to contend with Swiatek, whose all-around excellence is only reinforced when a trophy is available. Swiatek has won her last 10 finals – all in straight sets – and was great from the start on Saturday.
Jabeur didn’t have a single break point in their semi-final win on Thursday Caroline Garciabut she was instantly broken when Swiatek laced up a cross-court backhand winner from a short ball to cap a 15-stroke exchange.
After eight minutes, Swiatek had scored 12 of the first 14 points for a 3-0 lead.
Swiatek used her heavy topspin forehand to take charge from the baseline in the early stages, dictating the pace and trajectory of points. She ran her opponent back and forth, never letting Jabeur use the kind of spins and variations she was used to.
When Jabeur, who will rise to second in the rankings on Monday, showed some of her skill, Swiatek mostly managed to extend points. She used her strong court coverage, backed by a soundtrack of squeaking sneakers, as she darted everywhere and sometimes even slid as she landed on a ball, as one does on red clay, her favorite surface.
When Jabeur missed a forehand slice early in the second set, she dropped her racquet to reflect her desperation. A few points later, she threw her racquet off balance and fell face down. A running backhand pass from Swiatek to the next point made it 2-0 in that set. Swiatek raised a clenched fist and yelled, “Come on!”
Soon after, Jabeur briefly made things interesting. But only briefly.
She got to 4-all and after landing on her back after an off-balance backhand won a point in the next game, she stayed there, enjoying the moment and pumping her fists while lying on the floor.
Jabeur earned three break chances in that game, any of which would have allowed her to serve for the set. However, she couldn’t cash in there, missing a groundstroke on each one.
Then, at 6-5 in the set, Swiatek saved her first championship point when Jabeur served. Just before the point started, Swiatek jogged to the touchline to switch sticks – an unusual choice at the moment.
Swiatek then missed a backhand, and Jabeur pushed things to the tie break and led 5-4. But Swiatek took the last three points and was soon a big champion again.