MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Sunday, 03 March 2024

French Open: Iga Swiatek wins third title, but drops trophy lid at Roland Garros

22-year-old Pole steps on the platform and as she lifts trophy and cracks a huge smile

Matthew Futterman Paris Published 11.06.23, 06:41 AM
Iga Swiatek.

Iga Swiatek. File photo

Iga Swiatek dropped her first set of the tournament en route to winning her third French Open title on Saturday and she also dropped the lid of the Suzanne Lenglen Cup as she shook the trophy in the air.

The 22-year-old Pole, who received the cup from former great Chris Evert, stepped on the platform and as she lifted the trophy and cracked a huge smile the lid fell to the red dirt.

ADVERTISEMENT

French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton picked it up and placed the lid back on the Cup, only for Swiatek to put it back down near her feet to continue her celebrations.

Swiatek outlasted Muchova in three sets 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

Muchova, whose smooth and athletic game has been one of the sport’s best-kept secrets, struggled with errors early but found her form and gave Swiatek the final of her life, forcing her to use every bit of the clinical, relentless approach that had made her the world’s top player — and then some — for more than a year.

Swiatek has been virtually unbeatable at Roland Garros since 2020. With Saturday’s win, she captured her third French Open singles title in four years. Since 2019, her record in the tournament heading into the final was 28-2, which may not rival the 112-3 record of Rafael Nadal, but give her time. Swiatek just turned 22 last week and has given few hints that she will be slowing down.

For Muchova, the final capped a remarkable comeback from a year ago, when she sprained her ankle in a third-round singles match here and had to withdraw. That loss sent her spiraling out of the top 200. She entered this tournament ranked 43rd in the world.

But playing in a grand slam final for the first time is a challenge for any player, especially against the best in the world. Swiatek had cruised through her first five matches of the tournament. She won four of her first six sets without conceding a game. Then she lost just seven in her next two matches.

Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil made Swiatek uncomfortable for a bit in the semifinal, pushing her around the court and into a tie-breaker in the second set, but she arrived in the final with every reason to believe she would be lifting the trophy at the day’s end.

That faith grew stronger in the first minutes of the match, as the fluidity and mix of power and finesse that Muchova plays with on her best days was nowhere to be found. She sprayed balls wide and long, banged easy shots into the middle of the net, and gave Swiatek too many free points.

There was a time two years ago when she was among the most creative players in the world.

Her game featured squatting backhands and a repertoire of forehands with six different kinds of spin. There was an artistry to it all, but she didn’t win nearly as much.

Now Swiatek doesn’t build winning points as much as she seizes them, going for winners with her big, rolling forehand at the first opportunity. The shorter the point, the less she has to think, the more she can take her brain, the shakiest part of her game, out of equation.

She never eases her way into a match. She seeks to dominate from the start. When a point ends she hustles to start the next like she’s rushing to catch a train, plowing through sets and matches as though she’s got tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

Swiatek had her first break of Muchova’s serve and the lead after just seven minutes. She led 6-2, 3-0 after an hour, while Muchova was still trying to find her footing.

And then she did. Shot by shot, point-by-point, game-by-game, she did. The strokes grew crisp and precise, the points stretched out, she slid into her shots so gracefully at moments it looked like she was dancing.

Swiatek wobbled, and as the match moved to the two-hour mark it was all even at a set apiece. Two minutes later, Muchova broke Swiatek’s serve for a third straight time and had her first lead of the day. Muchova and Swiatek had not played a competitive match since 2019, before either of them had established themselves at the top of the game. But they have practiced many times since then, and Swiatek has raved about Muchova’s talents.

All of it was there Saturday.

With Muchova serving to stay in the match, Swiatek took dead aim on her returns at Muchova’s feet and nailed her targets. Double match point arrived as Muchova pulled a forehand wide. With a double-fault from Muchova, Swiatek had her crown, the queen of clay for another year.

New York Times News Service & Reuters

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT