Minutes after suddenly becoming a Grand Slam champion at age 19, while ranked just 54th in the world, Iga Swiatek held a microphone during the French Open trophy presentation and was hesitant for pretty much the only time over the past two weeks.
“First of all, I’m not very good at speeches,” Swiatek began, haltingly, “so, sorry, because I won my last tournament like two years ago, and I really don’t know who to thank.”
When she has a racket in her hand, it’s a whole different story. With the poise of a veteran and the shots of a champion, Swiatek wrapped up a dominating run at Roland Garros, grabbing the last six games to beat Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday’s final.
“Two years ago, I won a junior Grand Slam, and right now I’m here. It feels like such a short time,” Swiatek said, her voice cracking. “I’m just overwhelmed.”
Swiatek is the first Polish tennis player to win a major singles trophy and said, “I know it’s pretty crazy back home” — where one newspaper’s front page was splashed with the headline “Poland Garros” ahead of the final.
The way she played these two weeks — with those great groundstrokes, the occasional drop shot, terrific returning and impressive court coverage — made this outcome less of a surprise.
Kenin said Swiatek’s “spinny forehand up the line” bounces high enough to make things difficult for opponents.
Swiatek lost 28 games across seven matches and is the first woman to triumph in Paris without ceding a set since Justine Henin in 2007. She’s the first teen to win the women’s title there since Iva Majoli in 1997.
“She’s, like, really hot right now,” said Kenin, who was hampered by an injury to her upper left leg, an issue that first cropped up during a practice session last weekend.
Swiatek beat both 2018 champion Simona Halep and 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-2.
So it made sense that Swiatek would handle the fourth-seeded Kenin, even if the 21-year-old from Florida won the Australian Open in February and entered Saturday 16-1 in Grand Slam play this year.
This weekend is the culmination of an unusual two weeks, to say the least. The tournament was postponed from May-June to September-October because of the coronavirus pandemic; the recently rising number of COVID-19 cases in France led the government to limit the number of spectators allowed on the grounds to 1,000 each day.
Some top women, including 2019 major champions Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu, didn’t enter the event at all; 23-time Slam winner Serena Williams withdrew before the second round with an injury.
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