Iga Swiatek became the first Polish player to win a Slam with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Sofia Kenin in Saturday’s French Open final. It was a performance befitting of Swiatek’s entire tournament run where she was sensational from start to finish.
As the pair walked out onto court, I thought Swiatek looked surprisingly calm. Sometimes you can just see the nerves etched on the face but I didn’t get that from Swiatek at all who had a steely look of determination. Swiatek started very well, as she has done in almost every match this tournament, winning the first three games. Kenin pegged Swiatek back to 3-3. The end of the first set was the most engaging passage of play in this final. Swiatek managed to tough out two deuce games at 3-3 and 4-3. While the Polish player was unable to serve it out, those two prior games felt ultimately pivotal as Swiatek broke Kenin to win the first set, 6-4.
Swiatek soaked up pressure from an increasingly aggressive, Kenin and landed some weighty forehand strikes of her own. Swiatek’s tactics were spot on and she always seems to find the right shot for the right moment. A key trait to the match was that Kenin looked vulnerable in the forecourt. The American had a couple of openings at the net and was unable to finish points off, even backtracking on one occasion. In contrast, Swiatek looked much more comfortable moving forward and she seemed to cotton onto Kenin’s unease moving forward as she executed some nifty drop shots. Kenin’s high first serve percentage was one of the reasons why she managed to beat Kvitova. Kenin crucially missed a string of first serves at *4-5 in what was a shaky game.
Early in the second set, Kenin had an off-court medical time-out for a thigh issue. It was clear on the resumption that Kenin was hindered by it and not moving well. It could have been a nervy situation for Swiatek, waiting on the sidelines and contemplating the situation that she was a set away from the title. This wasn’t the case at all and she even said on Eurosport that it helped her relax as she engaged with some of the Polish fans! Swiatek was so, so smart in managing to exploit Kenin’s weaknesses. Swiatek’s backhand down-the-line began to soar and she kept pulling Kenin out wide on her backhand. Swiatek raced through the second set, winning 16 of the last 19 points, to claim her maiden Slam title!
There’s quite a few crazy stats with Swiatek’s win. It’s the second time in the last four years that an unseeded player has won the French Open with Swiatek following in the footsteps of Jelena Ostapenko who achieved that feat back in 2017. Mirroring Ostapenko’s triumph, this was also Swiatek’s first ever title on the professional tour! I’ve been going on about the number of lost games all week. Swiatek dropped just 28 games (!) in her seven matches and didn’t lose more than four games in any of the 14 sets that she played.
Swiatek was the best player from start to finish. She opened with a beatdown of last year’s finalist, Marketa Vondrousova in the first round and then turned the tables on Simona Halep in the fourth round with the performance of the tournament. If anything, i’m more impressed with how she’s handled everything post-Halep. Swiatek was the heavy favourite to win her quarter-final and semi-final matches against unheralded opponents which was a situation that she’s never faced before. Swiatek was unfazed and went out and executed her game so smartly. We’ve seen so many newbies of late come out with such fearless displays in the final and Swiatek was yet another example of this.
I love Swiatek’s game and she’s really got it all. During these past two weeks on the heavy clay, she has showcased her power and ability to generate pace off both wings. I think the forehand is the big weapon. There were a couple of matches, including the final, where the backhand down-the-line was magnificent. What makes Swiatek so exciting is that she’s not just a power player. She has wonderful touch and feel, and loves to come forward.
I didn’t expect this to happen so soon for Swiatek and there wasn’t really any warning of it as she lost her only match on the clay prior to the French Open to Arantxa Rus. Also add to that Kenin’s 0-6 0-6 loss in Rome to Victoria Azarenka – yeah, i’m going on about it again but it shows how not to read too much into pre-Slam results and how fortunes can change so quickly on the WTA! Kenin has been the most consistent performer at the Slams in 2020. I think we can put any negativity to bed of how she followed up her first Slam title.
Recency bias is swirling… i’m very excited to see Swiatek’s game continue to develop. She’s a star.
Recommended reading 📚
A fascinating read from WTA Insider about Swiatek’s sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.
Final thoughts 🤔
So that’s a wrap on the 2020 French Open for the women. I think it’s been a fun Slam with a bit of everything. It all kicked off with those miserably cold, damp and windy opening days that had a disgruntled Victoria Azarenka bemoaning that she’s used to the warmer climes of Florida 😂. I’ll never forget Errani-Bertens in what was one of the most unexpectedly dramatic matches in recent years. It will also be remembered for the stream of upsets. There were so many players at this tournament breaking new ground at a Slam and I enjoyed reading about their stories. To top it off, we got a new champ with the 19-year-old, Iga Swiatek who had previously never made it past the fourth round of a Slam!
Thanks for all your comments on the blog this week. It’s been lovely to see some familiar names and I’ve really enjoyed reading them all. My day job is much more demanding these days so i’m happy that I was able to maintain the blog through these two recent Slams. It’s been an enjoyable challenge!
As currently stands, there’s only two WTA events left on the calendar for 2020. There’s a tournament in Ostrava (Czech Republic) starting in a week’s time. It has also just been announced that the tournament in Linz (Austria) is going to be played next month. To be honest, i’m surprised that we got any live tennis post-Indian Wells. The WTA Finals will reportedly not be relocated to a new venue. The current top eight is Sofia Kenin, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, Iga Swiatek, Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Elise Mertens. What a shame because that’s a tantalising top eight!
Anyway, signing off for the 2020 French Open 🥐😘👋