Swiatek crushes Paolini to win third French Open title in row

Poland’s Iga Swiatek extended her reign at the French Open on Saturday by beating Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-1 in the final to win her third consecutive Roland Garros title.

World number one Swiatek dominated 12th-seeded Italian Paolini, a first-time Grand Slam finalist, taking just 68 minutes to claim a fourth crown in five years in Paris.

Swiatek has now won all five Grand Slam finals he has competed in. His other victory came at the 2022 US Open.

She is the fourth woman in the Open Era to lift Coupe Suzanne Lenglen four times, following Justine Henin, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.

“It’s great to be here. I love this place. I wait every year to come back,” said Swiatek, who kicked into high gear after saving a match point against Naomi Osaka in the second round.

“I was almost out of the tournament,” he said. “I also needed to believe that it would be possible, it was a really exciting tournament.” Swiatek becomes only the third woman to win the tournament three years in a row. Henin, in 2005-2007, was the last to do so. Monica Seles also succeeded in the feat as a teenager, in the early ’90s.

At 23, his four Roland Garros titles are the same number that Rafael Nadal, the record 14-time champion, had at the same age.

For the 28-year-old Paolini it was a sad end, at least in singles, to an otherwise brilliant fortnight in the French capital.

The world number 15 had won a total of four matches in 16 Grand Slam appearances before advancing to the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

Although she failed to emulate compatriot Francesca Schiavone, winner of the 2010 French Open, Paolini still managed to finish on a winning note with her and doubles partner Sara Errani through to Sunday’s final.

“I have to compliment you, Iga,” Paolini said. “I think facing you here is the toughest challenge in this sport.” Paolini’s transformation this season into a player capable of contending for the biggest prizes came in part from overturning the mentality that she needed “a miracle” to beat the best in the sport.

Yet the odds were heavily against her reaching the final, with Swiatek unbeaten at Roland Garros since her 2021 quarter-final defeat to Maria Sakkari.

Swiatek takes command

With a 20-match winning streak in Paris and an 18-game winning streak this year following titles in Madrid and Rome, Swiatek has hit the ground running.

She set up an ace to hold in the opening game and had Paolini backing away to break point, but the Italian landed a brave hold and then broke Swiatek when the Pole flayed a forehand long.

That triggered a searing return from Swiatek, who appealed to love to return to serve and then jumped out to a 4-2 lead after Paolini committed a costly double fault.

Swiatek made her opponent run continuously around the court and the errors began to pile up for Paolini, who conceded the first set with a weak bounce into the net.

With Swiatek firmly in the ascendancy, Paolini seemed short of answers as the top seed exuded confidence and repeatedly took control of rallies.

If not for her stunning comeback against Naomi Osaka in the second round, when she saved a match point, Swiatek would have suffered her first Grand Slam elimination at the French Open.

Instead that fear served to ignite her title aspirations, the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champions – Marketa Vondrousova and Coco Gauff – unable to stop Swiatek’s offensive.

Swiatek had difficulty eliminating Karolina Muchova last year when she had a lot of imagination, but there were no similar problems 12 months later when the Pole dismantled Paolini to underline her growing status as “Queen of Clay”.

The three matches won by Paolini were the fewest in the final since Henin beat Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 2007, which also coincided with the Belgian’s fourth Roland Garros title in five years.

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