Roland-Garros: Swiatek-Kenin, an unexpected final for a triumphant youth

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The context

Let whoever had planned such an ultimate poster make himself known. If this person exists, maybe he comes directly from the future and has in his possession an almanac with the results of this 2020 edition, to plagiarize a film classic. But back to reality. Even before the start of the Paris fortnight, we had taken up the challenge of reviewing the tournament favorites. We had chosen ten names including Sofia Kenin, thanks to her status as Australian Open champion, but the American was very low in our hierarchy. Iga Swiatek, let us admit it from the start, had passed under our radar.

The potential of the Polish has been known for several years. But the person, 54th player in the world, had to her credit before this epic at Roland Garros only one other final on the WTA circuit in the modest Swiss tournament in Lugano, last year. So to imagine him winning his first Grand Slam title in Paris, you had to have a taste for risk. At 19, Swiatek nevertheless crossed the picture like a tornado, ejecting last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova. But the coup that gave another dimension to his career was undoubtedly his methodical demolition of Simona Halep in the round of 16.

She left only three games at the number 1 seed and big favorite of the tournament, which had humiliated her in 2019 (6-1, 6-0). A hell of a revenge. Then expected at the turn, the young Polish girl did not disappoint in the quarter and semifinals, continuing her walk in the park: she did not lose a single set in 6 matches. But in the final, she will regain the status of outsider against the world number 6, Sofia Kenin. By winning in Melbourne, the latter showed that it was now necessary to count on it in the major meetings. So why is his presence in the final also a (relative) surprise?

Already because clay is not necessarily the favorite surface of the native of Moscow (she has not won any of the 5 titles of her career). Then and especially because Kenin did not shine since the resumption of competition in August. In Rome, she even hit rock bottom after a spanking received from Victoria Azarenka’s racket (6-0, 6-0). After a delicate start in her first two laps, she found her cruising speed and she never panicked. In the round of 16, the way she turned the tide against Fiona Ferro by raising her voice was impressive. Against Petra Kvitova, she definitely confirmed that she had regained the level that had allowed her to win the win in Australia.

Face to face

It’s simple, it will be a great first between the two players on the circuit. There will therefore be no significant psychological advantage for one or the other.

Note, however, that Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek crossed swords at Roland Garros … among the juniors in 2016. At the time, the Polish won in straight sets (6-4, 7-5).

Their journeys

  • 1st tour: bat Marketa Vondrousova [15] : 6-1, 6-2
  • 2e tour: bat Su-wei Hsieh: 6-1, 6-4
  • 3rd round: beats Eugénie Bouchard: 6-3, 6-2
  • 1 / 8th of final: one Simona Halep [1] : 6-1, 6-2
  • 1/4 of final: beat Martina Trevisan: 6-3, 6-1
  • 1/2 finale: bat Nadia Podoroska: 6-2, 6-1
  • 1er tour : bat Liudmila Samsonova : 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
  • 2e tour: bat Ana Bogdan: 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
  • 3e tour : bat Irina Bara : 6-2, 6-0
  • 1/8 finale: bat Fiona Ferro: 2-6, 6-2, 6-1
  • 1/4 final: beats Danielle Collins: 6-4, 4-6, 6-0
  • 1/2 finale : bat Petra Kvitova [7] : 6-4, 7-5

The X factor: emotional management of a first final for Swiatek

Throughout the fortnight, Iga Swiatek consistently maintained a very high quality of tennis. The first Polish woman to reach the Roland-Garros final in the Open era, she left only 23 small games in an immaculate course, an almost Nadal performance. That is, if she approaches the event in ideal physical terms. The question therefore resides, as far as she is concerned, in the mental approach to this finale.

At 19, a game with such a high stake is not what is easier to apprehend. Unless you keep the carelessness often attached to youth which allowed Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin or Bianca Andreescu to triumph in Grand Slams recently. If nothing can replace experience, Swiatek has however marked the ground. For the past few months, she has been working with Daria Abramowicz, a sports psychologist. What perhaps give him the necessary distance and allow him to stay in the moment when the final is launched.

They said

Iga Swiatek : It sounds surreal. On the one hand, I know that I can play very good quality tennis and on the other hand it is still a surprise for me. Usually I play better under pressure. If I’m not overwhelmed with emotions, I’ll be fine. This is the reason why I am so efficient, because I stay focused and I do not allow my opponent to deploy his best tennis.”

Sofia Kenin: Iga plays great tennis, she has fantastic results. But Petra (Kvitova) hadn’t lost a set here either. It doesn’t mean anything, if I play well. She has a lot of confidence and she and she is surely very excited as this final approaches. Hope my Melbourne experience will help me on Saturday. “

3 stats to keep in mind

2007. The last time a player won Roland Garros without losing a single set was during the 2007 tournament. Justine Henin was then looking for her 4th title in Paris by crushing Ana Ivanovic in the final (6-1, 6-2). Iga Swiatek will try to emulate the Belgian on Saturday.

17. It has been 17 years since a women’s final between two players aged 21 or under. At the time, in 2003, Justine Henin (21), again she, faced her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters (20) and won in straight sets (6-0, 6-4) for herself offer their first Roland-Garros.

214. It is the time, in minutes, spent on the court more by Sofia Kenin compared to Iga Swiatek. The American therefore had to fight 3.34 hours more than the Polish, the equivalent of two additional hooked matches. This data could weigh athletically in the final. It must be said that Swiatek did not drag: she took 1h10 to complete each of her matches on average.

Our opinion

We must admit: it is difficult to be categorical before such a final, for the good and simple reason that we lack benchmarks to analyze the balance of power between the two players. It doesn’t help that Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin have never played against each other before on the women’s pro tour. On the impression left in the tournament, the Pole certainly leaves with a head start. None of his opponents during the fortnight could take more than four games per set. She almost seems to be playing a tournament of her own.

His natural power and ability to put a lot of volume and topspin into his shots are strengths that set Swiatek apart on clay. Her way of holding her baseline and building points as she advances has impressed many, including our consultant Mats Wilander, who considers her to be the most complete young player he has seen, despite her flaws at the net. . It therefore has all the assets to continue its momentum, but it will have a lot to do against a Sofia Kenin who is gaining strength.

The American is very difficult to get past the baseline and her skills as a blocker sometimes make her unpredictable in the rally, with the use of the opposite foot in particular. She has the consistency and speed of execution to get Swiatek out of her confidence zone, especially in wet and heavy conditions which give less grip to the Polish lift. And above all, she has the experience of a Grand Slam final behind her. Physically, Kenin has drawn more from her reserves, but she is very well prepared and used to ending her matches with a cannonball. For all these reasons, we give it a very slight advantage.

Our prognosis: Kenin in three sets

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