Tennis

Polish teen Iga Swiatek becomes lowest-ranked French Open women's finalist

Iga Swiatek is just 19. She's ranked 54th. She's never won a tour-level title. She'd never been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament. And she's as dominant as can be so far at the French Open.

Victory ends impressive run for Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska

Iga Swiatek of Poland celebrates after defeating Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the French Open semifinals on Thursday. ( Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Iga Swiatek is just 19. She's ranked 54th. She's never won a tour-level title. She'd never been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament. And she's as dominant as can be so far at the French Open.

Poland's Swiatek became the lowest-ranked women's finalist at Roland Garros since the WTA computer rankings began in 1975, advancing with her latest lopsided win, this one 6-2, 6-1 against Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska on Thursday.

Swiatek has won all 12 sets she's played in the tournament and dropped merely 23 games through a half-dozen matches so far.

When this 70-minute tour de force ended before a crowd in the hundreds at Court Philippe Chatrier — there was a daily limit on spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic — Swiatek asked for more noise, waving her arms and cupping a hand to her ear.

WATCH | Swiatek wins battle of unseeded opponents in women's semis:

Polish teen Iga Swiatek sweeps into her 1st Grand Slam final at French Open

Sports

4 months agoVideo
2:08
19-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland has become the seventh unseeded player to reach the French Open final in the Open era after beating Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-1. 2:08

In Saturday's final, Swiatek will face a seeded opponent who already has been a Grand Slam champion: No. 4 Sofia Kenin defeated No. 7 Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 7-5 later Thursday.

Swiatek vs. Podoroska was the first women's semifinal at Roland Garros between unseeded opponents since 1983 — and only one, Swiatek, truly seemed ready for the stage.

Podoroska is ranked 131st, had never won a main-draw Grand Slam match until this event and was the first female qualifier in the professional era to get to the final four in Paris.

WATCH | Sofia Kenin reaches French Open final:

Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin into 1st French Open final

Sports

4 months agoVideo
0:56
American Sofia Kenin reached the French Open final for the first time by beating two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-5. 0:56

Just in case someone might get the idea this was a fluke for Swiatek, who listens to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses in her headphones before stepping out on court: She eliminated 2018 champion and No. 1 seed Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round, after defeating 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova by the same score in the first.

Swiatek (pronounced shvee-ON'-tek) has been on the rise, and the tennis world's radar, for a couple of years now.

In 2018, she won the Wimbledon junior singles title and the French Open junior doubles title (with Coco Gauff's current partner, Caty McNally).

Swiatek chasing history in doubles match

Now Swiatek is chasing a unique two-fer in Paris: She's made it into the doubles semifinals with American Nicole Melichar, too, giving her a chance to become the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win the women's singles and doubles trophies in Paris in the same year.

Swiatek does it with tremendous play at the baseline, picking up balls early and smacking big groundstrokes with thick topspin. Her power was too much on this breezy afternoon, accounting for a 23-6 edge in winners against Podoroska, a 23-year-old from the same town as soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

Another key to success for Swiatek, whose father was an Olympic rower, is her returning ability.

She broke for a 3-0 lead by smacking a backhand return winner, followed by another return so good that it forced Podoroska into a mistake. Swiatek entered this contest averaging 5.4 breaks per match and she added five more to her total.

And then there's a less-measurable factor — Swiatek's competitiveness and grit. The one time she lost a service game, making it 4-1 in the second set, she swiped at the dirt near the baseline with her racket.

Then she buckled down and broke right back.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now