Swiatek downs Paolini for 4th French Open title

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PARIS — Iga Swiatek won her third consecutive French Open championship and fourth in five years by defeating Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-1 in the final Saturday.

Top-seeded Swiatek trailed 2-1 early in Court Philippe Chatrier before taking the next 10 games to claim the opening set and go up 5-0 in the second. She stretched her winning streak at Roland Garros to 21 matches, and her career record at the place is now 35-2.

Swiatek, 23, is the first woman with three trophies in a row in Paris since Justine Henin from 2005 to 2007.

Swiatek, from Poland, also won the French Open in 2020 and the US Open in 2022 and is 5-0 in major finals.

“I love this place, honestly,” Swiatek said. “I wait every year to come back here.”

“I have to say congratulations to you, Iga,” said 12th-seeded Paolini, a 28-year-old from Italy appearing in her first Slam final. I think to play you here is the toughest challenge in this sport.

Paolini had never been past the second round at one of the four most important tennis tournaments until getting to the fourth round at the Australian Open in January. She will play in the French Open women’s doubles final Sunday with partner Sara Errani against 2023 US Open singles champion Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova.

After a scare in the second round against Naomi Osaka, when Swiatek needed to save a match point, this represented a fifth straight lopsided win. Swiatek took every set in that span and ceded a total of only 17 games.

“I was almost out of the tournament in the second round, so thank you guys for kind of staying behind my back and cheering for me,” Swiatek told a crowd dotted by red-and-white Polish flags. “I also needed to believe that this one is going to be possible. It’s been a really emotional tournament.”

On Saturday, a loud chant of “Let’s go, Jasmine! Let’s go!” arose from two rows of Paolini’s supporters in the lower bowl of the stands, each one wearing a T-shirt in one of the colors of the Italian flag: green, white or red. They would reprise that song, in English, interspersing it with claps.

“The best days of my life, I think,” said Paolini, who will rise to a career-best No. 7 in the WTA rankings next week. “It’s been a very intense 15 days. I’m really happy, and I’m proud of me and my team.”

During the coin toss, Paolini stood mostly still, while Swiatek went through her usual paces, shifting side to side and taking cuts of forehands and backhands.

After Swiatek got the match’s first point, a fan yelled in French, “Jasmine, it’s not over!”

And, actually, it soon looked as if they were right. That’s because Swiatek went through a bit of a shaky stretch, failing to convert a break point in the second game, then getting broken to trail 2-1 after 13 minutes when she flubbed a forehand, sending it way long.

That was Swiatek’s seventh unforced error of the afternoon; Paolini had made only one by then.

Swiatek immediately reset herself and began playing the sort of tennis that has kept her at No. 1 in the WTA rankings for nearly every week since April 2022. The instincts and footwork to get to almost any shot an opponent can offer. The intimidating, heavy-spin forehands. The prematch strategy and midmatch adjustments that can shift things her way.

And once Swiatek got going, there was nothing Paolini could do to slow her down.

Swiatek broke at love right away, capping the game with a return winner off a serve at 87 mph. The next game began with a 25-stroke exchange that Swiatek ended with a backhand winner that Paolini did not even try to chase, and it quickly became 3-2.

That was part of a stretch in which Swiatek earned 20 of the last 24 points in the first set.

The one-way traffic continued in the next set, and after just 1 hour, 8 minutes of play, Swiatek was celebrating by dropping to her knees behind a baseline.

Soon, she was sitting on the sideline and using her phone to snap a selfie while holding up four fingers to represent her haul of French Open trophies.

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