Iga Swiatek, the world No. 1, was not featured in a prime-time match on the tournament’s premier show court this fortnight until she faced an American in the semifinals. But she made herself at home there in Sunday’s final and staged as quiet a dismantling as Arthur Ashe Stadium has seen in some time.
Swiatek defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), with her typical efficiency to capture her second Grand Slam title of the year, the third of her career and her first on hard court.
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She is the first Polish woman to win the US Open. Asked afterward in the on-court ceremony what that might signify, Swiatek looked up to the smattering of Polish flags in the crowd before laughing and responding that she didn’t quite know — she would have to go home and check first. She only needed to step outside after the match to see a swarm of red- and white-clad Polish fans chanting and cheering for her in the center of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The answer finally came to her as she stood beside Jabeur, the Tunisian trail blazer who this summer became the first Arab woman and first African woman to make a Grand Slam final when she played for the title at Wimbledon.
“Especially right now when we have to stay united, I’m happy I can unite people with my sport,” Swiatek said. “I know I’m repeating basically what Ons said — you’re such an inspiration as well — but we’re trying to do our best, be good people and good examples.”
“Hopefully I can inspire more and more generations,” Jabeur said. “. . . This is just the beginning of so many things.”
The soundtrack of Swiatek’s tennis is free of yelps or grunts, all squeaking sneakers and the rhythmic thwap of ball against strings. But don’t be fooled — her game speaks volumes.
Just 21, Swiatek put together one of the best winning streaks modern women’s tennis has ever seen when she won 37 consecutive matches and six straight tournaments earlier this year, capping it with a win over Coco Gauff for her second title at the French Open.
Her win at Flushing Meadows hints that the consistency women’s tennis has lacked in its top ranks since Williams won her last major title in 2017 may be on the way.
Swiatek was the first top seed to reach the US Open final since Williams won the event eight years ago. She was also the first woman to reach the French Open and US Open final in the same year since Williams did it in 2013.
She and Jabeur will be the world No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, when new rankings start Monday.
Swiatek played up to her top seeding throughout the tournament, zipping through the first three rounds despite uncomfortable conditions. She prefers the slower surfaces of clay-court season in spring and had trouble controlling the type of balls the US Open uses yet problem-solved her way into the final. She battled back for victories twice after dropping the first set, in the fourth round and semifinals.
“I’m proud that I have much more solutions and options on court than I had before tennis wise but, yeah, also mentally,” Swiatek said. “I’m using these skills pretty well.”
Her triumph on a hard court represents a crucial expansion of her game should she want to dominate women’s tennis year round.
“I wasn’t sure if I was on the level yet to actually win a Grand Slam, especially [at the] US Open where the surface is so fast,” Swiatek said.
“It’s something that I wasn’t expecting for sure. It’s also like a confirmation for me that sky is the limit. I’m proud, also surprised little bit, just happy that I was able to do that.”
Swiatek entered the match with a formidable nine wins in the 10 finals she has made since 2019. The first set Sunday was over in a blink, just 30 minutes in which Swiatek ran Jabeur around the court, light and deft as a puppeteer.
Her style is simply to put the ball in play and dominate with her powerful forehand rather than her serve. Swiatek’s unmatched court coverage and ability to whip out a clever shot no matter her body placement frustrated Jabeur into banging her racket on the court in the fifth game.
Jabeur, who had served so well to reach the final, won just 20 percent of points on her first serve.
She finally found a foothold by attacking Swiatek’s serve in the second set and forced a tiebreaker but never could quite flip the momentum. Swiatek clinched the victory on her second match point and collapsed on the court, covering her face with her hands.
“So many emotions that you have to lie down, you know?” she said. “I’m happy that I didn’t start crying — too bad.”