Swiatek Overpowers Gauff, Faces Paolini in French Open Final

Photo of Iga Swiatek in the match against Coco Gauff in French Open semi-final.

Swiatek will face Jasmine Paolini, a first-time Grand Slam finalist, after the 12th seed defeated 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1. Paolini, a 28-year-old late bloomer, had never progressed past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament before this year. Her breakout season also includes a WTA 1000 title in Dubai. “Really, really happy,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to be in a Grand Slam final. I don’t know. It seems something impossible, you know, but it’s true.”

In recent years, Coco Gauff has considered the lasting relationships that tennis creates. The opponents she battled on the junior circuit frequently resurface as competitors in her professional career. If she and her peers achieve the long, successful careers they aim for, these familiar faces will persist. At 20, Gauff has plenty of time to hone her skills and shift the dynamics of her encounters with Iga Swiatek. Yet, it’s hard not to consider how difficult these matchups could become over the next decade.

As in previous encounters—last year’s quarter-finals and the final the year before—Swiatek maintained her dominance over Gauff, advancing to her fourth French Open final with a 6-2, 6-4 win. Swiatek’s record against the American now stands at 11-1.

Just days after turning 23, Swiatek has reached her fourth Roland Garros final in five years. She is on the brink of a historic achievement that would solidify her status among the greatest clay court players: on Saturday, Swiatek will try to become the third woman in the open era to win three consecutive French Open titles, joining Justine Henin and Monica Seles.

Gauff’s challenge on Thursday was apparent from the outset. Following a forehand error on the first point, a voice from the crowd urged her on with, “Allez Coco! C’est pas fini.” The opening game saw Gauff commit three forehand errors and lose her serve.

Each encounter with Swiatek has seen Gauff make notable tactical changes. This time, she aimed for an aggressive approach from the beginning, but this high-risk strategy resulted in numerous errors. While Swiatek remained steady, hitting two winners and five unforced errors compared to Gauff’s 12 winners and 18 unforced errors, the Pole easily claimed the first set.

In the second set, Gauff found some rhythm with her first serve and managed to string together a few games, breaking Swiatek to take a 3-1 lead. However, Swiatek stayed calm, stepped inside the baseline, controlled the rallies, and targeted Gauff’s forehand. From 1-3 down, Swiatek won four consecutive games and then served out the match.

Gauff leaves Paris in a unique position. On one hand, she is performing incredibly well; she has surpassed the expectations that followed her since her teenage years, becoming a Grand Slam champion and one of the top players in the world. Next week, she will achieve a career-high ranking of No. 2, just behind Swiatek.

However, Swiatek has defeated Gauff 11 times, all in straight sets, with few close contests. Even the lopsided rivalry between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova was slightly more competitive. It is up to Gauff to figure out how to close this gap.

“I think long-term it’s definitely something I can change,” said Gauff about their head-to-head record. “I can’t sit here and say it’s something I won’t turn around. I have to stay positive and believe in myself.”

With titles from Madrid and Rome, Swiatek has extended her winning streak to 18 matches, equaling her longest run on clay from 2022. Since ascending to world No. 1 in March 2022, she has recorded a 16-4 record against top-five players. Her pursuit of history nearly stumbled last Wednesday in a thrilling second-round match against Naomi Osaka, but she has been on a determined path of redemption ever since.

“Sometimes it’s hard not to see what’s at stake and what the atmosphere is around these matches,” Swiatek said when asked if her success now feels routine. “So still I’m not used to it. It’s not the routine. But on the other hand, when I’m really focused on work and on my tennis, I can kind of make it a routine because that’s the easier way to do it.”


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