Serena Williams became the most successful singles player in US Open history with a solid 7-5 6-3 win over compatriot Kristie Ahn.
It was the American’s 102nd win at Flushing Meadows and she has now surpassed the total racked up by Chris Evert.
Williams has struggled to find her rhythm since the WTA tour resumed. All five of her matches at the Top Seed Open and the Western & Southern Open went to three sets, and she lost to Shelby Rogers and Maria Sakkari at the semi-final and last-16 stages respectively.
Although the American never found her best tennis against Ahn, this seemed like an important step forward. She overcame a slow start and got stronger as the match went on.
“It’s been years since I won a match in straight sets,” Williams joked in her on-court interview. “It felt really good. I told myself to just close it out and I knew I could do that.”
The American continued, “It’s quiet, but it’s such a big stadium with screens and atmosphere. And it’s a Grand Slam, so I’m still as passionate and intense out there.”
Williams re-groups after sloppy start
From 40-30 up in the first game of the match, Williams made an unforced error and hit two double faults to gift Ahn an immediate break.
However, the 23-time Grand Slam champion soon levelled the score. She unleashed a couple of huge strikes to break back in game four.
For the next few games, neither player really excelled. Both Williams and Ahn produced solid games on their serve to move the score along to 4-4. The more experienced American then safely negotiated a nervy moment when she saved a break point in game nine.
After that hold and one more, Williams had the chance to swing freely when Ahn was serving to stay in the set at 5-6. And the more experienced American did exactly that. She hit the ball hard and deep and put her younger opponent under all kinds of pressure. It proved too much for Ahn, as she made a couple of errors which handed Williams the break she needed to seal the set.
At the beginning of the second set, Ahn capitalised on some sloppy play from Williams to establish a 2-0 lead. However, the younger American did not manage to maintain her form, and this enabled the 23-time Grand Slam champion to take control of proceedings and win five games in a row and turn the set on its head.
Ahn steadied herself to force Williams to serve for victory. But the experienced American produced some trademark huge serves to accomplish it with ease.
Williams’ next task will be a second-round encounter with Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian recorded an impressive 6-3 6-7(0) 6-0 victory over 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig.
Kenin, Konta and Cornet advance
The experienced American will be joined in round two by the most recent Grand Slam champion on the WTA tour: Sofia Kenin. The young American clinically dispatched Yanina Wickmayer 6-2 6-2 in just 68 minutes.
Johanna Konta also secured a place in the next round. She came through a testing first set to beat compatriot Heather Watson 7-6(5) 6-1. The Brit will now play Sorana Cirstea, who defeated Christina McHale 6-4 7-5.
Some players sought out plenty of exhibition tournaments to participate in during the tour’s absence. Alize Cornet was certainly one of those players. She won six matches spread across three editions of the Challenge Elite organised by the French Tennis Federation. And she also reached the final of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown.
All of this match practice has served the Frenchwoman well so far in New York. She beat Kenin in impressive style in the Western & Southern Open. Then she continued her excellent form in round one of the US Open with a 6-3 1-6 6-0 victory over Lauren Davis.
Cornet will now play World No.121 Ysaline Bonaventure, who earned one of the biggest wins of her career when she beat 25th seed Zhang Shuai 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Iga Swiatek Explains How Work With Sports Psychologist Aided Her Rapid Rise
The 19-year-old speaks to reporters for the first time since her Grand Slam milestone in Paris.
Recently crowned French Open champion Iga Swiatek believes work on her mental game was key to her shock run.
The 19-year-old Pole stunned the field at Roland Garros as she eased to the title by dropping only 28 games in what is the fewest amount dropped by a female player at the event since Justine Henin back in 2007. En route to the title she beat top 10 players Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin. Prior to the tournament Swiatek was yet to win a title on the WTA Tour and had never gone beyond the fourth round of a major.
Reflecting on her breakout, the teenage rising star believes her work with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz has been pivotal as she encourages other players to follow the same route as her.
“She understands me and she is a sports psychologist, so both on court and off court she is doing, with me, a great job,” Swiatek told The Associated Press.
“The mental side of tennis is really important,” she added.
Swiatek has been labelled as a future star of the sport after winning the 2018 Wimbledon girls’ title. Since then she has steadily risen up the rankings but had never scored a victory over a top 10 player until this year’s French Open. So far this season she has recorded 16 wins on the Tour with 12 of those taking place across the three Grand Slam tournaments.
“I realized that it doesn’t have a good impact on my tennis and I’m not able to play as good tennis on match(day) as on practice (days), so we tried to change that and we did a great job and I’m really happy that the result of that job is (a) Grand Slam,” she commented on working on her mental game.
Speaking about Swiatek’s rise, Abramowicz said she has managed to ‘use her resources and potential magnificently.’ Dr Abramowicz conducted postgraduate studies in sports psychology at SWPS University of Humanities and Social Sciences in Warsaw.
“Iga is very mindful, despite her young age. She has used her resources and potential magnificently. It wasn’t an easy time though,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“What you have seen on television is only a fraction of the work done. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a metamorphosis, but rather an evolution. The doubles proved very helpful in sticking to one’s routines. Iga withstood excellently the difficulties of this tournament.”
Already the first player from her country to win a major title, Swiatek says her ultimate goal is to win every Grand Slam tournament, as well as a medal at the Olympic Games. Her father is a former rower who participated in the 1988 Olympic Games.
She is currently at a ranking high of 17th in the world.
Is 19-year-old Iga Swiatek bound for greatness?
Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper tennis columnist James Beck reflects on the potential significance of the French Open women’s final.
Paris is always magical.
The City of Love must be.
Iga Swiatek is the French Open women’s singles champion.
Always talented, always athletic.
But until this fortnight the Polish 19-year-old had never demonstrated any true greatness in women’s tennis. All of a sudden now, even the great John McEnroe is predicting greater greatness from the latest new star of women’s tennis.
A STRANGE YEAR FOR WOMEN’S TENNIS
What a strange year this is in women’s tennis. Sofia Kenin wins the Australian Open before the coronavirus took over the entire world. Kenin came out of nowhere to achieve this amazing feat.
So, just when it appeared Kenin was ready to keep her amazing success story afloat, another surprise arrived with the name Iga Swiatek. It wouldn’t be real surprising that when this coronavirus disappears, hopefully early in 2021, that Swiatek keeps winning Grand Slam titles. It also wouldn’t be surprising if she retires with just one major title.
Swiatek seems to be just that unpredictable.
DID SHADOWS PLAY A KEY ROLE IN THE WOMEN’S FINAL?
Perhaps this time, Swiatek’s glorious day was achieved due to the uncontrollable nature of nature itself. The sun and its shadows appeared to play a major role in how this Grand Slam final started.
Shadows dominated one end of the court at match time on Saturday in the newly covered Court Philippe Chatrier Stadium.
Visibility was dreadful on the TV screen, and it must have been much the same way in Kenin’s eyes when she played the second and third games of the match on the “shadow end” of the court. The 21-year-old American looked out of sorts as if she was playing in darkness and she couldn’t find the ball while falling behind, 3-0.
SHADOWS BRING BACK MEMORIES OF NADAL-SODERLING
The scene brought back memories of Rafa Nadal’s fourth-round match against Robin Soderling in 2009 at Roland Garros. Going into the 2020 final on Sunday against Novak Djokovic, Nadal has suffered only two losses in 88 matches on the red clay of Roland Garros.
Of course, Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals at the French Open wasn’t a show stopper, especially when you consider that Djokovic is now slipping up on Nadal’s 19 Grand Slam titles and Roger Federer’s 20 in the all-time major title race.
But for Rafa to lose to the big-hitting Soderling was shocking at the time. Rafa also looked like he was playing in darkness that summer day in 2009. He couldn’t find the ball, either.
KENIN WASN’T NORMAL SELF
Seeing what happened on Saturday in the shadows at Roland Garros, it’s now easier to understand what happened to Nadal that day against Soderling.
Kenin had a miserable day on Saturday. She wasn’t herself, maybe due to the shadows or maybe to her heavily bandaged left thigh. Kenin is a better player than the one audiences around the world saw in her 6-4, 6-1 loss to Swiatek.
FANS FORTUNATE TO CATCH THEM BEFORE THEY BECAME STARS
Watching this French Open women’s final made me acknowledge once again how great it is to reside in a great tennis town that brings the ITF world-wide circuit to your city. It happens all over the world, to large cities and small cities.
Of course, Charleston also has the WTA Tour’s Volvo Car Open where the world’s best current players perform for large crowds of paying viewers.
The ITF Circuit is different.
Swiatek, Kenin and Cori Gauff all played in the $100K ITF tournament at LTP Tennis in Charleston during 2018 or 2019. All free of charge for everyone to view in person or even to enter the current boundaries of social distancing. Autographs, yes. But autograph seekers were rare for these three young stars even that recently.
James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Iga Swiatek Not Ready To Step Out of The Shadows Of Radwanska Despite ‘Life-Changing’ French Open Win
The teenage sensation is the latest new star of women’s tennis but how good does she think she can be?
Poland has a new tennis sensation but Iga Swiatek says she still has a long way to go following her shock run to the French Open title.
The 19-year-old has stunned the sport by lifting her first Grand Slam title without dropping a set. Something that was last achieved by Justine Henin back in 2007. In the process she beat top 10 players Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin in what is an impressive run for the former Wimbledon girls champion who had never previously won a WTA title until now.
Now she has shot into the limelight, the new champion is expected to face a surge of interest both home and abroad from the public and sponsors. She is the first ever Polish player in history to have won a Grand Slam title with some predicting her to become an even better player than Agnieska Radwanska. A former poster girl of tennis in Poland who peaked at a ranking high of No.2 and won 20 WTA trophies before retiring in 2018.
“I just feel like I kind of made history. But I still think that Radwanska has achieved a lot because she played at the top level of WTA for, I don’t know, 12 years,” said Swiatek.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to compare us. But I think I have to be really consistent for the next couple years for everybody to name me the best player in Poland because still I have a lot to do. I still think that’s kind of her place.”
Branding her victory over Kenin in Saturday’s final as a ‘life-changing experience,’ Swiatek admits that there is no time for her to be complacent given the recent history of women’s tennis. Since 2017 Kenin, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Jelena Ostapenko have all won a major title without previously reaching the quarter-final of a Grand Slam. Within that period, 12 different players have won a major title.
“I feel like I can make progress in most things because I’m only 19,” she said. “I know my game isn’t developed perfectly. Also I think the biggest change for me is going to be to be consistent.’
“I think this is what women’s tennis is struggling with. That’s why we have so many new Grand Slam winners because we are not as consistent as Rafa, Roger, and Novak. That’s why my goal is going to be to be consistent.”
Without a doubt she is on the right trajectory with many players hailing the uniqueness of her game with shots such as her ‘spinny forehand.’ The phrase Kenin used to describe her opponents shot. She gets her athlete mentality from her father, Tomasz, who is a former Rower that competed in the 1988 Olympic Games for Poland. There is also another key element.
In recent months Swiatek has been guided on the Tour by sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz. Throughout the French Open she has spoken openly about the importance of the mental side when it comes to the sport.
“I use everything that my psychologist taught me during a match. For sure I’m doing the biggest work on the court,” she stated
“What is the role of sports psychology in the performance? I think it is a huge role. I can see the difference when I’m mentally prepared and I’m ready to handle the stress, the pressure. I can see the difference where I can’t. That’s why I’m sometimes losing in the first round and sometimes I can win a tournament.”
Swiatek’s approach should also help her when she comes to terms with her newfound fame. Fellow player Osaka has previously spoken about the difficulty of her rapid rise in the sport and being pushed into the limelight following her maiden Grand Slam win. Although the Pole believes she is ready to embrace it.
“I know it’s going to be crazy. I think I’m going to get used to that, it’s not going to be a problem for me,” she said about her new fame. “I don’t’ have a problem with getting attention, with people surrounding me. I think it’s going to be okay for me.”
On Monday Swiatek will rise to a ranking high of 17th in the world.
Maria Sakkari reaches her third quarter final of the season in Ostrava
Alexander Zverev continues his winning streak in Cologne with a three-set win over John Millman
Grigor Dimitrov rallies from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar in Antwerp
Julia Goerges Announces Retirement From Tennis
Novak Djokovic Explains Why He Is Skipping The Paris Masters
French Open, Steve Flink: “Nadal is close to his best. Sinner will be in the Top 10 within a year”
Andy Murray Outlines Next Steps Following Cologne Defeat
Goran Ivanisevic Under Fire Over French Open Comment Involving Djokovic And Nadal
COMMENT: Rafa At His Best Was Way Too Much For Novak To Handle
‘Completely Sick’ Alexander Zverev Reveals He Had Been Suffering From A Fever After French Open Exit
French Open, Steve Flink: “Nadal is inhuman. He can play three or four more years and retire with Djokovic”
Scanagatta And Flink: “We Both Think Djokovic Will Win The French Open, So Nadal Will Definitely Pull It Off!”
Steve Flink: “Djokovic Will Be Happy About The French Open Draw”
Flink: “Zverev wasted the lead, but Thiem would have been more affected by a loss”
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