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Published Time: 08.06.2024 - 23:00:41 Modified Time: 08.06.2024 - 23:00:41

“I’m really proud of myself, because the expectations obviously have been pretty high from the outside. (There has been) pressure, as well. I’m happy that I just went for it and I was ready to deal with all of this.” Iga Swiatek, swiatek, iga świątek, Paolini


Only once was she challenged throughout this Roland Garros, and that was by four-time major champion Naomi Osaka. Facing a match point in the second round, she rallied brilliantly to win the best match in the women’s draw 7-5 in the deciding set.

In her final five matches, she dropped just 17 more games. From almost being out of the tournament, she played at a level near perfection.

“It means a lot. This tournament has been pretty surreal with its beginning and with second round, and then I was able to get my game better and better every match,” she said.

“I’m really proud of myself, because the expectations obviously have been pretty high from the outside. (There has been) pressure, as well. I’m happy that I just went for it and I was ready to deal with all of this.”

At the moment on clay, there is not a challenger who can go with her and having matched the deeds of Henin and Mills, it is hard not to imagine Swiatek reeling in Chris Evert.

The American, who presented the Suzanne Lenglen Cup to the superstar along with Martina Navratilova, holds the record at Roland Garros as a seven-time champion.

The next challenge for Swiatek is on the grass at Wimbledon, a surface that has proven her Kryptonite to date, with her best effort at the All England Club a quarterfinal appearance last year.

Swiatek was quizzed as to whether she would ever consider spending a lengthier time preparing for Wimbledon, as Ivan Lendl did in futile when skipping the French Open in his bid to add the grass court major to resume.

“I had these ideas (of) doing a pre-season on grass so I can learn how to play there,” she said.

“(But) last year’s result was pretty nice. I feel like every year it’s easier for me to adapt to grass. So I think there is no need to do that. I just need to continue the work that I’ve been doing.

“For sure, it’s a huge challenge. If I would lose here earlier, maybe I would be able to play two more weeks on grass and then I would be a better grass player, but if I would choose, I love playing on clay, so I’m not going to give up that ever.”

Anyone who witnessed Saturday’s rapid-fire final would understand why Swiatek has an enduring love affair with the surface. The 23-year-old was nervous in the infancy of the clash against the Italian surprise packet Paolini, who was playing in her first grand slam final, and dropped serve to trail 1-2. But after retrieving the service break, she proceeded to rout her rival.

The five-time grand slam champion has been dubbed the “Nadaliser” by French press for her preeminence on clay, which mirrors that of the 14-time champion Rafael Nadal.

Similarly to the left-hander, she possesses a powerful forehand that rips into the clay and spits off the surface with even more venom to complement an aggressive game that enables her to dictate terms from the baseline.

This was evident throughout the final. When not clubbing winners, the arcing of her forehands made the ball jump over the shoulders of the diminutive Italian, who struggled to put the champion under any pressure once Swiatek had settled in the final.

Swiatek also carries the same ruthless mentality as the Spanish great, as evidenced in the manner with which she refused to concede even a single point against a rival who was overwhelmed by the intensity of the champion and the brilliance of her play.

“I tried to play my best, but it’s not easy ... to play at that intensity. I never played a player that has this intensity before in my life,” Paolini said.

“So it was my first time facing a player that (who) is taking time as much as she does, but also hitting winners and be close on the court,

you know. So for me ... I think it was the most challenging match I played in my entire career.”

The first set whizzed by in just 37 minutes, with Swiatek more than doubling the number of points claimed by her the first-time major finalist. The second set was even more rapid, though Paolini showed great fight to ensure she got on the scoreboard late in the match.

The longer the rally, the greater the chance of the underdog winning the point, as evidence in the fact she almost broke even in exchanges of more than nine strokes.

But among the many problems she faced was lasting that long in a rally, with Swiatek quick to strike when in charge. With the championship claimed just 68 minutes after the opening serve was struck, the Queen of Clay sunk to her knees in delight.

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