Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur entered the Arthur Ashe Stadium as the two best players in the world, the ones who have outperformed the rest of the field this year. But towards the end of the match, the women’s landscape was even more apparent. Jabeur gave all she could, pushing her way back into the game from the brink of crushing defeat, but Swiatek is the only dominant force in the sport.
After leading her several struggles through the summer and the tournament, the 21-year-old played in total freedom with the title on the line and stopped a late wave from Jabeur, winning the US Open for the first time in her career. with a thrilling 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory.
With her win, Swiatek is the first woman to win two Grand Slam titles in one year since Angelique Kerber in 2016, after winning the French Open earlier in the season. The Pool is now tied for fourth among active players for total grand slams, with a total of three. She has now also earned 10,365 ranking points, an accolade only Serena Williams has achieved since 2013.
“I’m proud to have many more solutions and options on the court than I had before in tennis, but also mentally,” said Swiatek. “I use these skills quite well. I’m really proud of that because I just know what it feels like to have no ideas on the pitch, to have nothing you can change to make the game better. At this point, it has been a long time since I had no idea.”
Since her 37-game, six-tournament winning streak ended in the third round of Wimbledon, Swiatek has struggled to regain her grip on the tour. Having arrived in New York over the summer with a 6-4 record, she made it clear that she didn’t like the lighter US Open balls used by the women. “I just don’t expect much, especially for this tournament. It was such a challenging time and coming back after winning a grand slam is always difficult,” she said.
But if it mattered in New York, she was ready. Swiatek recovered twice from a set-down and trailed Aryna Sabalenka 4-2 in the deciding set of her semifinal. As Swiatek usually does in finals, despite the title at stake, she initially played with freedom.
“I’ve finally accepted that I’m going to make those mistakes. It won’t be like on a slow surface where I can, I don’t know, build up a rally, then be really calm and just finish. It will definitely be more risk and less control. So I accepted that,” she said.
Because Swiatek fended so much of Jabeurs’ attack with profundity, the court seemed so narrow to the Tunisian when she had the upper hand, but she was also under constant pressure. Swiatek attacked with her destructive weapons from both wings and from all parts of the field.
She forced her 28-year-old opponent to play at her limit and do so consistently, and the Tunisian started shooting mistakes as she tried to force her best level. But Jabeur never stopped fighting. Her forehand began to pack its punch, pushing Swiatek back, and from 2-6, 0-3 and double breakpoint on her serve, Jabeur eventually generated two breakpoints at 4-4 as the Arthur Ashe Stadium roared in agreement.
Jabeur eventually forced a tiebreak and got a standing ovation from Ashe after saving a match point, but Jabeur’s growing number of mistakes late in the tiebreak was enough for her to give up the match.
Despite her frustration, Jabeur was, as always, positive as she dealt with her second consecutive Grand Slam final defeat after losing the Wimbledon final to Elena Rybakina. Jabeur continued her steady, gradual growth, taking her losses as lessons.
“Luckily I am. I struggled to win my first WTA title. It took me time. So I think this will take me time. The main thing is to accept it, learn from the final I lost. But hey, I’m definitely not one to give up. I’m sure I’ll be in the final again. I will do my best to win it. I’m not sure, but I know I’ll do my best.” said Jabeur.
Swiatek started the season ninth in the world, one of many faces in the top 10, and the way she has separated herself from the pack is astonishing. Her win-loss record 55-7 this season now, 8-1 against the top 10 players, and her only defeat to her predecessor at No. 1, Ash Barty.
The defining quality of Swiatek’s young career thus far, however, has been her killer instinct when titles are at stake. She has won 10 finals in a row after losing her first ever final, winning all 20 sets and suffocating all opponents as she conceded an average of 3.6 matches in her previous nine. Jabeur pushed her way more than any player in a title match since her fame, but Swiatek still had the composure to push through.
“Utilities. I have to settle for what’s happening now. I’m going to see how I’m going to react. Because winning the US Open is also different than winning a slam in Europe or in Australia, because I don’t know how the popularity will change, or it will change. For now I’m going to observe and learn a little bit.”