Polish teenager Iga Swiatek completed a stunning rise by becoming the lowest-ranked woman to win the French Open after beating American Sofia Kenin.
Swiatek, 19, is a former junior Wimbledon champion but the world number 54’s rise to Roland Garros history has been swift and surprising.
She showed few nerves to beat fourth seed Kenin 6-4 6-1, lifting the trophy without losing a set in the tournament.
“I don’t know what is going on, I’m so happy,” a smiling Swiatek said.
Swiatek is the first player from Poland to win a Grand Slam singles title.
She is the youngest French Open women’s champion since Monica Seles lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 1992.
“It is crazy. Two years ago I won a junior Grand Slam and now I’m here,” added Swiatek, who was laughing before her voice cracked with emotion.
“It feels like such a short time. I’m so overwhelmed.”
Swiatek dropped to her haunches and cupped her mouth in disbelief after cracking a forehand winner on her first match point.
After asking the umpire for permission, she ran across Court Philippe Chatrier to find her nearest and dearest, eventually being pointed in the right direction to run up to her support team and family in the players’ box.
Who is Iga Swiatek? – some quick facts about the newest French Open champion
- Born 31 May 2001 in Warsaw, Poland
- Father is former rower Tomasz Swiatek, who competed at the 1988 Olympics
- She loves rock/guitar-led music including AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Guns N’ Roses
- She won the Wimbledon junior title in 2018 and the French Open girls’ doubles alongside Caty McNally in the same year
- Said earlier in the tournament she might step away from the tour to go to university
- Employs a sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, to travel with her on tour
Another new name wins a women’s Grand Slam title
The women’s game has long been unpredictable and few would have backed Swiatek, even those who were already aware of her huge potential, to win Roland Garros.
The teenager is the ninth woman to win her maiden Grand Slam in the past 14 major tournaments.
But from the moment she shocked Romanian top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round, more began to believe it would be the fearless Swiatek who lifted the trophy on Saturday.
As well as Halep, Swiatek has also beaten Czech 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova and now Kenin as her ability to hit powerfully and precisely off either flank paid dividends.
One question mark going into the final was whether she would not – in her words – “choke”. She did not seem to think she would and so it proved.
The magnitude of the occasion did not faze her as she raced into an early 3-0 lead and, after Kenin fought back to level, she regained control to win the first set.
Kenin struggled to handle Swiatek’s heavy and free hitting, with the Pole’s confidence increasing as the match went on.
Another sign of Swiatek’s calmness was the way she casually waved to Polish fans and practised a few serves when Kenin took a medical timeout for treatment on a heavily-strapped left thigh after the third game of the second set.
Soon it was back to business, though. Swiatek ruthlessly won 16 of the next 19 points from when Kenin returned as she became the first woman to win the title without dropping a set since Belgium’s Justine Henin in 2007.
“I was just mentally consistent. I just wanted to play aggressive as in previous rounds,” said Swiatek, who hit 25 winners and made 13 unforced errors.
“It was really stressful for me, so kind of hard. I don’t know what made the difference. I won the match point and that is important enough.
“It had to be like that that another underdog won a Grand Slam in women’s tennis. It is so often right now that it is crazy.”
Not to be for Kenin
While Kenin was the higher ranked player and had won her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, it is easy to forget the 21-year-old’s own rapid progress in light of Swiatek’s achievement.
The American said she “hated” clay courts up to last year, when she announced her arrival at Roland Garros by beating 23-time major champion Serena Williams in the third round.
There did not seem to be too much she liked about the surface when her preparation for the French Open started and finished with a 6-0 6-0 humbling by former world number one Victoria Azarenka in Rome last month.
But the feisty New Yorker, who has unashamedly told how winning is what she loves most about the sport, has repeatedly shown how she will never back down from a challenge and proved it again in Paris by reaching the final.
This was one step too far for Kenin, however, who could not reach her best level as a total of 23 unforced errors contributed to her defeat.
While she could not become the first woman aged 21 or under to win two majors in the same season since Henin and Williams in 2003, she will reflect on a wonderful year where she has emerged as one of the biggest talents in the game.
“I’m not going to use this as an excuse, but my leg obviously was not the best,” said Kenin, who is set to move up to fourth in the world.
“After the first set I just felt it was so tight, I couldn’t move. That’s why I had to call the trainer. It just got worse.”
‘Many more majors ahead’ – stars congratulate Swiatek
Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, who is friends with Swiatek, led the congratulations on social media…