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Swiatek brushes aside Gauff to win second French Open title

Swiatek brushes aside Gauff to win second French Open title

TENNIS: Iga Swiatek cruised to her second French Open title by dominating teenager Coco Gauff in the final yesterday (June 4), as the world number one claimed her 35th successive victory.

Tennis
By AFP

Sunday 5 June 2022, 11:53AM


The 21-year-old Polish star stormed to a 6-1, 6-3 win in only 68 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier, equalling Venus Williams’ record for the longest winning run by a woman in the 21st century.

Swiatek celebrated her sixth straight title this year in the players box with her friends and family.

“I told Coco ‘Don’t cry’ and that’s what I am doing. Congrats to Coco,” said an emotional Swiatek.

“You are doing an amazing job. At your age, I was on my first year on tour and I did not know what I was doing. You will find it, I am sure of that.”

A disconsolate Gauff was left sitting on her seat in tears after a nervous performance, punctuated by 23 unforced errors and three double faults.

The 18-year-old American came up short in her bid to become the youngest Grand Slam singles champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004.

“I want to congratulate Iga, what you’ve done on tour in these past couple of months has been amazing,” said Gauff, as the tears flowed again when she thanked her team.

“I hope we can play in more finals and maybe I can win one... I want to thank my team, I’m sorry I couldn’t get this one today.”

Swiatek, only the 10th woman to win multiple French Opens in the Open era, lost just one set in the tournament - against China’s Zheng Qinwen in the fourth round.

She has now won all three of her career meetings with Gauff, who was playing in her first major final.

Gauff will now turn her attentions to today’s doubles final, where she will face home favourites Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic alongside compatriot Jessica Pegula.

Swiatek improved her remarkable record in finals, having won her last nine on the WTA Tour.

Swiatek expressed her support for Ukraine during the trophy presentation, despite saying before the final that she does not feel ready to speak about off-court issues.

‘I want to say to Ukraine, ‘Stay strong’. The war is still there,” she said, to cheers from the stands.

Gauff looked nervous in the opening exchanges and a flurry of unforced errors handed Swiatek a break in the very first game.

The 18TH seed found herself 3-0 and a double break down just 16 minutes into the match, as Swiatek’s powerful backhand helped her win a lengthy third game on her fifth break point.

Gauff finally got on the board with a scrappy hold to the delight of the crowd, but she had dropped a set for the first time in the tournament just minutes later.

Swiatek was not playing her best, but a cross-court backhand winner brought up two set points and she took the second opportunity when Gauff fired wide.

The Pole gifted her opponent a potential route back into the match, making four unforced errors to throw away her serve in the first game of the second set.

Swiatek recomposed herself though as the mistakes continued to come from Gauff, breaking back to level at 2-2.

She made it five straight games to move within one of the title, losing only five points in the process.

Gauff dug deep to force Swiatek to serve for the trophy.

But the top seed did just that on her first match point, dropping to the red clay in celebration as Gauff sent a return flying long.

Nadal aims to be French Open’s oldest champion

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal will become the oldest man to win the French Open title if he defeats Casper Ruud, the Norwegian whose clay court talents he has personally helped foster.

Nadal will be playing in his 14th Roland Garros final today and 30th overall at the Grand Slams.

Victory will deliver a record-extending 22nd major and 14th French Open, 17 years after his title winning debut in Paris.

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The 36-year-od Nadal is, however, as surprised as anyone to have got this far.

A chronic left foot injury which has plagued him throughout his career flared up again in Rome last month, putting a serious question mark over even making it to the French capital.

“Without a doubt, I’d prefer to lose the final and have a new foot,” admitted Nadal who has not hidden the brutal reality that every match he plays at Roland Garros may be his last.

Despite his fears, Nadal has impressively battled his way into today’s championship match.

He needed five sets and more than four hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16 and another four hours to get past Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Alexander Zverev then pushed him all the way for three hours in the semi-finals until a sickening ankle injury forced the German world number three to quit on crutches.

Despite the German’s bold all-or-nothing challenge, Nadal still cut an impressive presence on court, at one point coming out on top in a lung-busting 44-shot rally.

His record at the French Open now stands at 111 wins and just three losses. Djokovic was responsible for two of those defeats.

Nadal was only 19 when he won his first French Open in 2005.

The greatest’

Victory today will make him the tournament’s oldest champion, eclipsing 34-year-old compatriot Andres Gimeno who took the title 50 years ago.

World number eight Ruud, 23, is the tour’s in-form clay court player.

Not only have seven of his eight career titles come on clay, but he has won 66 matches on the surface since 2020 and played in nine finals.

Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach a Grand Slam final.

Robin Soderling, a fellow Scandinavian, is the only other man apart from Djokovic to have defeated Nadal in Paris back in 2009.

Ruud has been training at Nadal’s academy in Manacor since 2018 alongside his father Christian, a former top 40 player, and Spaniard Pedro Clar.

Nadal and Ruud have never met professionally but they are often hitting partners in Spain where the Norwegian admits “he has beaten me pretty much all the times in practice”.

“Casper has a very good character to play tennis. He’s very relaxed, humble. He’s always in a positive mood about learning,” said Nadal.

“I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit during this period of time.”

Ruud was just six years old when Nadal was first crowned French Open champion and describes the Spaniard as his “idol”.

“I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,” said the Norwegian.

“He’s the greatest clay court player of all time and one of the greatest all-around players.”

Victory for Nadal will give him the Australian Open-French Open double in the same year for the first time.

That would also put him halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, achieved only three times in history, the last of which was by Rod Laver in 1969.

“I fought, I have done all the things possible to give myself another chance to play in the final of Roland Garros,” said Nadal.

“All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament.”

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