Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur entered Arthur Ashe Stadium as the two best players in the world, the ones who outperformed the rest of the field this year. However, by the end of the match, the women’s landscape was even clearer. Jabeur gave it all she could, she forced her way back into the match from the brink of a crushing defeat, but Swiatek is the single dominant force in the sport.
After navigating her various struggles through the summer and the tournament, the 21-year-old played with total freedom with the title on the line and then held off a late surge from Jabeur, holding on to win the US Open for the first time in her career with a tight 6-2, 7-6 (5) win.
With her win, Swiatek became the first woman to win two grand slam titles in a year since Angelique Kerber in 2016, after winning the French Open earlier in the season. The Pole is now joint fourth among active players for total grand slams, with three total. She has now also earned 10,365 ranking points, a distinction that only Serena Williams has achieved since 2013.
“I’m proud that I have a lot more solutions and options on the court than I had before tennis-wise, but also mentally,” Swiatek said. “I use these skills quite well. I’m really proud of that because I just know how it feels to not have ideas on the court, not to have anything that you can change to make the match better. Right now it’s been a long time since I had any idea.”
As her 37-match, six-tournament winning streak ended in the third round of Wimbledon, it will take some effort for Swiatek to re-establish her grip on the tour. She arrived in New York with a 6-4 record over the summer and she made it clear that she didn’t like the lighter US Open balls used by the women. “I just don’t expect much, especially before this tournament. It was such a tough time and coming back after winning a grand slam is always tough,” she said.
But when it mattered in New York, she was ready. Swiatek twice recovered from a set down to trail 4-2 against Aryna Sabalenka in the deciding set of her semi-final. As Swiatek usually does in finals, she initially played with freedom despite the title on the line.
“I finally accepted that I was going to make those mistakes. It’s not going to be like on a slow surface where I can, I don’t know, build a rally, then be really calm and just finish. It will be more risk and less control, for sure. So I accepted that,” she said.
Because Swiatek countered so much of Jabeur’s attack with depth, the court seemed so narrow for the Tunisian whenever she had the upper hand, yet she was also under constant pressure. Swiatek attacked with her destructive weapons from both wings and all parts of the court.
She forced her 28-year-old opponent to play at her limit and do so consistently, and the Tunisian started to make mistakes as she tried to force her best level. But Jabeur never stopped fighting. Her forehand began to gain her strokes and push Swiatek back, and from 2-6, 0-3 and a double break point on her serve, Jabeur eventually generated two break points at 4-4 as the Arthur Ashe Stadium roared in approval.
Jabeur later forced a break, drawing a standing ovation from Ashe after saving a match point, but Jabeur’s increasing error count late in the break was enough for her to concede the match.
Despite her frustration, Jabeur was, as ever, positive as she digested her second straight grand slam final defeat after losing the Wimbledon final to Elena Rybakina. Jabeur continued her steady, gradual growth, taking her losses as lessons.
“Luckily it’s me. I struggled to win my first WTA title. It took me a while. So I think that will take me time. The most important thing is to accept it, to learn from the final I lost. But yeah, I’m definitely not someone who’s going to give up. I’m sure I’ll be in the finals again. I will try my best to win it. I’m not sure, but I know I’ll do my best.” Jabeur said.
Swiatek started the season ranked ninth in the world, one of the many faces in the top 10, and the way she separated herself from the pack was astonishing. Her win-loss record 55-7 this season now, 8-1 against top 10 players, and her only defeat to her predecessor at No 1, Ash Barty.
The defining quality of Swiatek’s young career thus far, however, is her killer instinct when titles are on the line. She won 10 finals in a row, after losing her first ever final, winning all 20 sets and suffocating all opponents as she averaged 3.6 games conceded in her previous nine. Jabeur pushed her far more than any player has in a title match since her rise to prominence, yet Swiatek still had the composure to see it through.
“Now. I have to agree with what is happening now. I’ll see how I react. Because also winning US Open is different than winning a slam in Europe or in Australia because I don’t know how the popularity will change, if it changes. For now, I’ll just observe and learn.”