Iga Swiatek walks past Kasatkina to set up Roland-Garros final against Gauff | French Open 2022

In the first months of 2022, when Iga Swiatek and Daria Kasatkina faced each other three times on three different continents, Kasatkina only managed to win 11 matches.

Their rematch with a French Open final on the line underscored the big challenge that awaits Swiatek these days. She undeniably plays better tennis than any woman in the world and now she has to maintain that level even under the kind of pressure that would crush most others.

She did it all the way through her first Grand Slam tournament as world No. 1 and main attraction, and on Thursday she did very well again, putting in one of her best performances of the fortnight. . After 10 of the last 11 games, Swiatek reached the Roland Garros final for the second time in three years by dominating Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1.

The surreal winning streak now stands at 34 matches, tied with Serena Williams’ best streak, achieved in 2013. As the streak enters its fifth month, Swiatek has dropped just two sets since mid- March and one in Paris, where she conceded 29 games in six matches.

“It seemed pretty obvious to me that the streak could end soon,” Swiatek said. “So I just wanted to take it really step by step. I didn’t have any specific goals for this tournament. And just seeing how my game is changing every game is something that gives me a lot of inspiration. hope, and I’m just proud of myself.

Coco Gauff plays a backhand en route to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Martina Trevisan in the semi-final. Photography: Robert Prange/Getty Images

The world No. 1 will face Coco Gauff, who cemented her own incredible two weeks, showing her growing maturity and experience throughout as she overcame her tightness in the early stages before soundly beating Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 to reach it. first Grand Slam final.

With another step forward, the 18-year-old continues to progress so far ahead of the curve. She is the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 and the youngest French Open finalist in over 20 years, since Kim Clijsters in 2001.

Gauff spent the days leading up to this tournament taking her graduation photos near the Eiffel Tower and she will end it by competing in a dream final against the best player in the world.

Afterwards, Gauff explained how her perspective had changed, especially after her quarter-final loss to Barbora Krejcikova last year. “I think at that time I was pushing myself too much to get results, whereas when I was in the quarter-finals I didn’t even enjoy the moment,” she said. “I really didn’t even care. Now, being in the final, I take advantage of it.

“I think there’s definitely a difference between being ready and almost wanting it too much. I think at that time I wanted it too much, whereas now I definitely want it. Yeah, who wouldn’t? But also, it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen to me.

The forward task Swiatek was a former top 10 player with a deep toolbox of slices, spins and angles. But Kasatkina’s variety pales in comparison to the weight of Swiatek’s shot. From 2-2, Swiatek’s forehand exploded into the game, she split Kasatkina’s defense creating angles on both sides and she wasted Kasatkina’s second serve all the way.

It took immense mental effort for Swiatek to deal with stress, emotions and pressure in a completely new scenario for her. Swiatek admitted it was “extremely difficult” to stay calm in every game and, although she won, she believes she didn’t behave entirely well until she recovered from a set in his fourth-round win over Zheng Qinwen. “I couldn’t completely get rid of the expectations, but I tried to accept that, that they’re going to be there and it’s going to stress me out a little bit more,” she said.

Swiatek dealt with the added stress through frequent talks with his team, his coach, Tomasz Wiktorowski, and his psychologist, Daria Abramowicz. During that time, she pumped herself up listening to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, and distracted herself by reading The Three Musketeers.

The result of their work and taste is that, two years after her triumph in beating Sofia Kenin in the 2020 final, a 21-year-old Swiatek will be playing for her second Grand Slam title. Thirty-four wins in the streak, remarkably, she feels like she can only get better.

“I feel like my game is getting stronger and stronger,” she said. “I can really relax when I take the lead and when I take a break, so that’s great. I feel like I’m playing better every game.”

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