Iga Swiatek And Ons Jabeur Make Year-long Dominance Tell At US Open | US Open Tennis 2022

The two best players in the world will face off in the final of the last grand slam tournament of the year. It is not a situation that has occurred much in the past few years of women’s tennis, but it is the defining narrative of the US Open final as Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur stare each other down on Saturday.

With just a few notable exceptions – Ashleigh Barty for a year and Naomi Osaka on hard courts for a short period – in recent years women’s tennis has been characterised by its openness. Seemingly anyone has been able to win on any given day, few players able to maintain their form for long. The last major final of the year, however, pits the No 1 and the No 2 in the WTA race against each other in what could well be a new rivalry in the sport.

Swiatek has already won six titles, including the French Open, in a historic breakthrough year. This will be her seventh final. The 21-year-old has also reached at least the semi-finals of three grand slam tournaments this year. She now has over 9,600 points and that total would cross 10,000 with her third slam title, something only Serena Williams has achieved since 2013.

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For a while it seemed Swiatek was not quite in position to establish another big run in New York. After her 37-match winning streak came to an end at Wimbledon her doubts returned. She even lost early at a small event at home in Warsaw on her favourite surface, clay.

As she transitioned to hard courts, Swiatek was still not feeling her game. She lost in her second match both in Toronto and Cincinnati. She criticised the balls used for women’s games at the US Open. She explained that many of the feelings haven’t abated – she does not yet fully trust herself on hard courts, while the balls are still not to her liking. She has learned to accept that conditions will not always suit her, but she can still get through wins.

Since the spring, Jabeur has established herself as the second best player in the world. The Tunisian’s breakthrough came during the clay season when she won the biggest title of her career in Madrid, a WTA 1000 event. She has since won Berlin along with finals at Wimbledon, Rome and Charleston. This is her second grand slam final in a row, her fifth final of the year and a victory would bring her a title on every surface this year. The last time two women’s players other than Williams reached two different grand slam finals in a season was 2006.

Ons Jabeur screams with joy after defeating Caroline Garcia in straight sets in their US Open semi-final
Ons Jabeur screams with joy after defeating Caroline Garcia in straight sets in their US Open semi-final Photograph: Julia Nikhinson/AP

They play different styles, but a common quality is that they have built varied, sustainable games that afford them a number of different options, making them far more adaptable and reliable than their opponents. This was clear on Thursday as Swiatek and Jabeur faced Aryna Sabalenka and Caroline Garcia in their respective semi-finals, both challengers resting their success on all-out attack. When nerves struck, at the very beginning for Garcia and while Sabalenka led 4-2 in the third set, neither could adapt.

new balance

Swiatek is one of the best athletes in the world and possesses some of the most destructive weaponry off the ground and she is increasingly finding that balance again. Jabeur, meanwhile, is blessed with a complete game and a vast array of shots. She can smother opponents with her serve and forehand, she can slice them to death, pepper them with drop shots and she has also massively improved her physicality.

In the past, Jabeur had so many options that it was overwhelming. She often struggled to make the right choices on court. But she is now slowly learning how to use them, to adjust in the matches and to know when to be disciplined and to play more with instinct. “When I talk to my coach before the matches, I just feel like now I can do whatever I can do and what I want to do on the court, which is surprising for me and I surprise myself so many times,” said the 28-year-old.

Despite the final pitting the two best players in the world against each other, the head-to-head tied at 2-2 with Jabeur winning their most recent hard-court match last year in Cincinnati, there is the chance that Swiatek will blow Jabeur away as she does to everyone in finals. Since losing her very first final in 2019, Swiatek has won her last nine and she has not dropped a set, demolishing every single opponent.

With a title on the line she tends to relax and play her best tennis, a level that nobody has been able to match all season.

But if there is anyone who should feel like they can, it is Jabeur, a few months after her first grand slam final at Wimbledon – which she lost in three sets – returning to the same stage at the US Open wiser and more assured in her abilities.

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