Iga Swiatek has become the first Polish player in history to win a Grand Slam title after defeating Sofia Kenin in a roller-coaster match at the French Open.
The rising star, who had never won a WTA title of any kind until now, saw off Kenin 6-4, 6-1, in a showdown that saw her rival struggle with injury during the closing stages. Swiatek’s 84-minute triumph saw her hit more than two times as many winners than Kenin (25-10) as she broke her six times in total. She has become the first female player to win the tournament without dropping a set throughout since Justine Henin in 2007.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” a stunned Swiatek commented on her Grand Slam triumph.
“I am so happy and so glad that my family was here to watch me play.
“It’s crazy. Two years ago I won a junior Grand Slam (at Wimbledon) and right now I’m here. It feels like such a short time and I am just so overwhelmed.”
In what was a rematch of their clash in the junior competition of the tournament four years ago, 19-year-old Swiatek battled through a nerve-stricken opening set which had various twists and turns resembling San Francisco’s infamous Lombard street. Prior to Paris her only experience of a tournament final on the WTA Tour was at a International event in Lugano, Switzerland. A stark contrast to reigning Australian Open champion Kenin who was playing in her seventh.
The underdog started the match guns blazing with a three-game winning streak that saw her open up an early lead. However, Swiatek’s stronghold didn’t last for long with Kenin hitting back with revenge as she took advantage of a tentative service game by her opponent to claw back and level. The cat and mouse chase continued with the world No.53 withstanding some powerful hitting from across the court as she produced a series of impressive drop shots. Swiatek had a chance to close the set out whilst leading 5-3 but failed to convert. Enabling Kenin to break back once again with the help of a winning return. Despite the blip, she prevailed in the following game after a backhand from the frustrated American sailed wide.
Four games away from the biggest title of her career, Swiatek’s momentum in the match came to a halt after Kenin walked off the court for a medical timeout three games into the second set. The issue was related to her upper left leg which she has had some taping on. Kenin returned to the court with extra taping around her entire thigh.
Resuming play, the dynamic of the final had changed. Kenin was still fighting hard but it was visible that she was struggling with her movement on the court and close to tears. Meanwhile, Swiatek stuck to her game plan as she continued to show impressive mental resistance on the court. Something she attributes to her time spent with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz.
Surging towards the French Open crown Swiatek showed little signs of nerves as she raced to a set and 5-1 lead. Serving for the title, a serve down the centre of the court was returned out by Kenin to hand the Pole her first championship point. Victory was then sealed with the help of a forehand winner aimed at the corner of the court.
“I think I was mentally consistent and I just wanted to play aggressive as I have done in previous rounds,” said the newly crowned champion.
“I felt like today was really stressful for me. It was kinda hard but I don’t actually know what made the difference (between her and Kenin). I won the match point and that made the difference.”
Swiatek is the seventh unseeded woman to contest the final of a major tournament since 2010 and the third to win. Following in the footsteps of Jelena Ostapenko at the 2017 French Open and Sloane Stephens at 2017 US Open. Furthermore, she is the second-lowest ranked player to contest a French Open final since the WTA ranking system was created in 1975.
“For another underdog to win a Grand Slam in women’s tennis, it’s crazy,” she commented.
Besides the victory, the Pole also paid tribute to her father. Tomasz Swiatek is a former professional rower who represented his country at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
“He taught me how to be a professional (athlete). It’s hard to describe but he raised me in this way that I feel pretty confident on the court. He gave us everything,” she said in tribute.
Swiatek will rise to 17th in the world rankings on Monday. She exits Roland Garros with $1,900,000 in prize money which is more than what she had earned in her entire career prior to the tournament.
Dayana Yastremska Heads To Australia Despite Doping Violation
Did the 20-year-old break the rules with her trip?
Tennis Australia says they are ‘investigating’ after it emerged that Dayana Yastremska boarded a plane funded by the governing body despite failing a drugs test.
Last week the International Tennis Federation issued a statement confirming that the Ukrainian tennis star has been issued with a provisional suspension after testing positive for the banned substance mesterolone metabolite. An anabolic agent prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency which can be used for the treatment of people with low testosterone. Yastremska was pictured boarding a plane to Australia on Thursday in a post uploaded by two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova which has since been deleted.
Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is. The world No.29 has the right to appeal her provisional suspension but according to the latest ITF statement she hasn’t done so. One way her ban can be lifted is if the appeals board accepts her contamination argument which would allow her to play right away.
“Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” Yastremska wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”
Despite Yastremska’s plea, it is unclear as to if she or Tennis Australia has broken any rules. As of January 15h the ITF still lists her as a player who is provisionally suspended from the sport. Richard Ings, who is the former chair of the Australian anti-doping agency, points out that suspended players are not allowed to participate in any activity organised by a tournament. Raising questions as to if a Tennis Australia funded plane journey counts as one of these ‘activities.’
Yastremska is currently on the Australian Open entry list and is set to be allowed to train during her 14-day quarantine like other players unless anything changes. Tennis Australia has not made a public statement but news agency AAP has confirmed that an investigation has been launched. Should it turn out that the 20-year-old is ineligible to play, it is unclear if she would be required to pay back the cost of her plane trip.
The Australian Open starts on February 8th.
Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus
Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.
The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.
Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.
“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.
“I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.
“Thank you for all your support.
“Stay Healthy and safe.
Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.
Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.
Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.
While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.
Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title
Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.
Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.
The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.
With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.
It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”
The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.
There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.
“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”
Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.
“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”
Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.
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