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Swiatek beats Paolini for 3rd straight French Open title

Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

PARIS (AP) — For a few minutes, anyway, it seemed as if Iga Swiatek was a bit off in the French Open final against Jasmine Paolini. Swiatek kept making mistakes and got broken early to trail Saturday at Court Philippe Chatrier.

Might a true surprise be in the offing? Could Paolini not only make a match of this, but actually win it? Um, no. Not even close.

The top-seeded Swiatek recalibrated her wayward strokes and simply overwhelmed Paolini, grabbing 10 games in a row en route to a 6-2, 6-1 victory that gave her a third consecutive championship at Roland Garros and fourth in five years.

"I love this place, honestly," Swiatek said. "I wait every year to come back here."

She stretched her French Open winning streak to 21 matches, and her career record at the place is now 35-2.

The 23-year-old from Poland is the first woman with three trophies in a row in Paris since Justine Henin from 2005 to 2007.

"I have to say congratulations to you, Iga," said the 12th-seeded Paolini, a 28-year-old from Italy appearing in her first Slam final. "I think to play you here is the toughest challenge in this sport."

Swiatek also won the French Open in 2020 and the U.S. Open in 2022 and is now 5-0 in major finals.

After a scare in the second round last week against Naomi Osaka, when Swiatek needed to save a match point, this represented a fifth straight lopsided win. Swiatek took every set in that span and only ceded a total of 17 games.

"I was almost out of the tournament in the second round, so thank you guys for kind of staying behind my back and cheering for me," Swiatek told a crowd dotted by red-and-white Polish flags. "I also needed to believe that this one is going to be possible. It’s been a really emotional tournament."

Here's just one other indication of how dominant Swiatek is on clay: She added this triumph to those on the slow surface at Madrid and Rome last month, becoming the first woman to win all three events since Serena Williams did it in 2013.

During Saturday's postmatch ceremony, Swiatek was flanked by a pair of women who each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Evert said before this French Open that she thinks Swiatek could eventually surpass her women's record of seven championships in Paris.

Paolini had never been past the second round at one of the four most important tennis tournaments until getting to the fourth round at the Australian Open in January. Paolini will play in the French Open women’s doubles final on Sunday with partner Sara Errani against 2023 U.S. Open singles champion Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova.

"The best days of my life, I think," said Paolini, who will rise to a career-best No. 7 in the WTA rankings next week. "It's been a very intense 15 days. I’m really happy and I’m proud of me and my team."

Before the final began, a loud chant of “Let’s go, Jasmine! Let’s go!” arose from two rows of Paolini’s supporters in the lower bowl of the stands, each one wearing a T-shirt in one of the colors of the Italian flag: green, white or red. They would reprise that song, in English, interspersing it with claps.

After Swiatek got the match’s first point, a fan yelled in French, "Jasmine, it’s not over!"

Swiatek briefly went through a shaky stretch, failing to convert a break point in the second game, then getting broken to trail 2-1 after 13 minutes when she flubbed a forehand, sending it way long.

It was Swiatek’s seventh unforced error of the afternoon; Paolini had made only one by then. But the rest of the way, those numbers were six unforced errors by Swiatek, 17 by Paolini.

That's because Swiatek, who heard plenty of "Iga!" chants, immediately reset herself and began playing the sort of tennis that has kept her ranked No. 1 for nearly every week since April 2022. The instincts and footwork to get to almost any shot an opponent can offer. The intimidating, heavy-spin forehands. The prematch strategy and midmatch adjustments that can shift things her way.

And once Swiatek got going, there was nothing Paolini could do to slow her down.

Swiatek broke at love for 2-all, capping the game with a return winner off a serve at 87 mph (140 kph). The following game began with a 25-stroke exchange that Swiatek ended with a backhand winner that Paolini did not even try to chase. Now Swiatek led 3-2.

That was part of a stretch in which Swiatek earned 20 of the last 24 points in the first set. Then it was 5-0 in the second.

After just 1 hour, 8 minutes of play, Swiatek was celebrating by dropping to her knees behind the baseline.

Soon, she was sitting on the sideline and used her phone to snap a selfie while holding up four fingers to represent her haul of French Open trophies.


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