Iga Swiatek, world no. But she made herself comfortable there in Sunday’s final and staged a quiet takedown the likes of which Arthur Ashe Stadium has not seen in a long time.
Swiatek defeated Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) with her trademark efficiency to claim her second Grand Slam title of the year, her third of her career and her first on hard court.
She is the first Polish woman to win the US Open. When asked afterwards at the ceremony in the square what that could mean, Swiatek looked up at the scattered Polish flags in the crowd before laughing and replying that she wasn’t sure – she had to go home and check first. She had only to step outside after the game to see a bevy of Polish fans dressed in red and white singing and cheering her in the center of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The answer finally came to her as she stood next to Jabeur, the Tunisian trailblazer who became the first Arab and first African to reach a Grand Slam final as she played for the title at Wimbledon this summer.
“Especially now that we have to stick together, I’m happy that I can unite people with my sport,” said Swiatek. “I know I’m basically repeating what Ons said — you’re such an inspiration too — but we’re trying to do our best to be good people and good role models.”
“Hopefully I can inspire more and more generations,” said Jabeur. “. . . This is just the beginning of so many things.”
Swiatek’s tennis soundtrack is devoid of whines or grunts, all squeaky sneakers and the rhythmic clap of balls against strings. But don’t be fooled – their game speaks volumes.
Swiatek is just 21 and has had one of the best winning streaks modern women’s tennis has seen when earlier this year she won 37 straight games and six straight tournaments, capping it by beating Coco Gauff for her second title at the French Open.
Her victory at Flushing Meadows suggests that women’s tennis has lacked consistency in its top echelons since Williams won her last major title in 2017.
Swiatek became the first top seed to reach the US Open final since Williams won the event eight years ago. She also became the first woman to reach the finals of both the French Open and the US Open in the same year since Williams did it in 2013.
She and Jabeur will be world No. 1 and No. 2 when the new rankings debut on Monday.
Swiatek played to her top seed throughout the tournament, getting through the first three rounds despite uncomfortable conditions. Favoring the slower surfaces of the spring clay court season, she struggled to control the type of balls used at the US Open but easily slotted into the finals. She struggled twice for wins after losing the first set, in the fourth round and in the semifinals.
“I’m proud that I have a lot more solutions and options on the court than before in terms of tennis, but yes, also mentally,” said Swiatek. “I use those skills pretty well.”
Her triumph on hard court represents a crucial addition to her game if she hopes to dominate women’s tennis year-round.
“I wasn’t sure if I was at the level to actually win a Grand Slam, especially [at the] US Open where the surface is so fast,” Swiatek said.
“It’s something I certainly didn’t expect. It’s also like a confirmation for me that the sky is the limit. I’m proud, also a little surprised, just happy that I managed to do it.”
Swiatek went into the match with an impressive nine wins in the ten finals she has achieved since 2019. Sunday’s first set was over in the blink of an eye, just 30 minutes in which Swiatek guided Jabeur around the pitch with ease and skill like a puppeteer.
Her style is simply to get the ball in play and dominate with her powerful forehand rather than her serve. Swiatek’s unmatched coverage on court and her ability to land a clever shot regardless of her body position frustrated Jabeur and slammed her racquet onto the court in game five.
Jabeur, who served so well to reach the final, won just 20 percent of the points on her first serve.
She finally found footing by attacking Swiatek’s serve in set number two and forcing a tie-break, but was never able to fully reverse the momentum. Swiatek claimed the win on her second match point and collapsed on the court, covering her face with her hands.
“So much emotion you have to lay down, you know?” she said. “I’m glad I didn’t start crying – too bad.”