World No. 1 Iga Świątek came into the French Open final on a massive roll and having claimed supremacy of women’s tennis in the wake of Ash Barty’s sudden retirement in March.
The Polish star, who turned 21 on Tuesday, had won 54 of her previous 56 sets entering the championship match, 34 straight matches and eight straight finals
Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who was inspired by Venus and Serena Williams, was playing in her first Grand Slam singles final and is also in the women’s doubles final with her partner, Jessica Pegula. She had won the French Open Junior singles title four years ago.
In the end, Świątek was too confident and too powerful and the moment was too much for Gauff at this early stage of her career. Świątek stretched her winning streak to 35 matches with a 6-1, 6-3 victory for her second Roland Garros and second major title. She is the only Polish player — man or woman — to win a major title, and now she has a pair of them.
She tied Venus Williams for the longest winning streak among women this century, surpassing Serena’s mark of 34 straight. Her last lost came Feb. 16 in Dubai. Martina Navratilova won 74 straight matches in 1984.
“Two years ago, winning this title was something amazing, I wouldn’t expect it ever,” she said on court as her fans waved Polish flags and her family looked on with pride.
“But this time I feel like I worked hard and did everything to get here even though it was pretty tough. The pressure was big. Thank you all fans for the support, for coming, all the Polish flags I see there. It’s good to have you…on my toughest moments, so thank you.”
She then added a message of support for Ukraine, which borders Poland, to “stay strong because the world is still there. Since my first speech in Doha, basically I was hoping that when I do the next one, the situation is going to get better. But I’m still going to have hopes and try to support.”
The Pole will take home $2,355,343 in prize money, while Gauff earned $1,177,931.
“She’s grabbed No. 1, she’s just got a stranglehold on No. 1,” ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe said of Świątek before the match. “She’s got a monster lead, she’s going to finish No. 1 for sure.
“Now for her, it’s about her winning these major titles…She’s got the speed and the firepower off both wings that is absolutely phenomenal. I haven’t seen a female player play with the type of spin and firepower off both wings really ever in the women’s game and she also is an incredible mover.”
Świątek idolizes Rafael Nadal and Nadal came to wish her good luck before the match. Now they could win French Open titles on the same weekend for the second time after both won titles in October 2020. Nadal is set to play 23-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway in Sunday’s men’s final.
Gauff was the youngest Roland Garros finalist since Kim Clijsters in 2001 and the youngest American to reach the championship match since Andrea Jaeger in 1982.
She was the latest teenager to reach a major final after two teenagers met in last year’s U.S. Open final when Emma Raducanu defeated Leylah Fernandez.
But Gauff reached the final without having to play a single Top-30 player, and hadn’t really been tested. She didn’t drop a set en route to the final.
And her nerves were evident early.
Gauff essentially broke herself in the first game of the match and then sailed a forehand wide during a rally to go down a double-break 0-3 in the first. She finally got a hold in the fifth game but was down 4-1 before Świątek easily won the first set in 32 minutes.
Gauff showed signs of life by going up an early break in the second set and then holding for a 2-0 lead. She changed pace by mixing in drop shots, and the crowd got behind her.
But Świątek clamped down and broke back before holding and breaking again for a 4-2 lead.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Świątek held for the title, preserving her record of never losing to a player young than she is.
“First I want to congratulate Iga,” Gauff said. “What you’ve done on tour the past couple months has truly been amazing and you totally deserve it.
“Hopefully we can play each other in more finals and I can get a win over you one of these days.”
Despite the blowout victory, this matchup was good for women’s tennis because it featured two likable young stars with bright futures, one of whom is American.
“At 21 and 18, this is the future of our sport,” John McEnroe said on air. “This is the best matchup we could have hoped for.”
While Świątek will look ahead to Wimbledon in three weeks, Gauff can still win a French Open title this weekend.
Gauff and Pegula, the No. 8 seeds in doubles, will face 2016 champions Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in Sunday’s final.
Gauff is into her second Grand Slam doubles final in her last three majors. She and Caty McNally were runners-up to Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai at last year’s U.S. Open.
Last year, Barbora Krejcikova won her first Grand Slam singles title on Saturday, then teamed with Katerina Siniakova to capture the doubles title on Sunday.
Gauff won’t pull that off, but she can still leave Paris with a trophy.