Tennis fans could not have asked for a more exciting or intriguing final than the one set to be served up at the US Open on Saturday.
Iga Swiatek, the current world No. 1 by a mammoth margin, has enjoyed a remarkable season in which she has undoubtedly been the best player on the WTA Tour, while Ons Jabeur has this year continued her steady rise to the upper echelons of women’s tennis and made history along the way.
On paper, Saturday’s final is Swiatek’s to lose.
Renowned as a clay specialist – her two grand slam titles have come at the French Open – the Pole has expertly adapted her game to the hard courts in 2022, winning four WTA 1000 events on the surface and becoming only the fourth woman in history to complete the “Sunshine Double” by winning Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back.
Those titles, as well as her second French Open crown, came during her remarkable 37-game unbeaten run earlier in the season, which finally came to an end in the third round at Wimbledon.
However, Swiatek has certainly struggled to recapture that form during the second half of the season and her involvement in the US Open final was by no means a formality before the tournament started.
She struggled through her semifinal, too, fighting back from a set down and 4-2 down in the deciding set against sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka in a match that took more than two hours to complete.
Swiatek, the first Polish woman to appear in a US Open singles final, said Saturday’s match will be “a great battle” against Jabeur, a player looking to make some history of her own.
The 21-year-old, who was tipped to become the dominant force in women’s tennis following Ash Barty’s early retirement this season, has proven herself to be incredibly clutch in tournament finals.
Of the 10 finals she has reached in her career, Swiatek has won nine and not lost one since her first final back in 2019.
Jabeur recognized that following her swift semifinal win over Caroline Garcia. “Iga never loses finals,” she said. “So it’s going to be very tough.”
But Jabeur, who will return to her career-high ranking of world No. 2 after the US Open, undoubtedly has the tools to end Swiatek’s run with one of the most varied games on Tour.
The Tunisian will become the first African woman to compete in a US Open final and is looking to win her maiden grand slam at the second attempt.
She reached the Wimbledon final just two months ago, but was surprisingly beaten by Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in three sets. Despite the defeat, she spoke of the confidence that run had given her. That certainly looked the case in a nerveless semifinal.
Jabeur brushed aside the dangerous Garcia, who was on a 13-game unbeaten streak, winning 6-1 6-3 in little over an hour to cement her place in Saturday’s final.
The career head-to-head between these two players stands at 2-2, with Swiatek winning their last meeting in the final of the clay court Italian Open in May, though Jabeur came out on top the last time they faced off on a hard court back in 2021.
“It feels more real just to be in the finals again,” Jabeur said after her semifinal win. “At Wimbledon I was kind of just living the dream, and I couldn’t believe it. Even after the match, I was just going to do my things and not realizing it was an amazing achievement already.
“But now I hope I’m getting used to it. I’m just happy the fact that I backed up the results in Wimbledon and people are not really surprised I’m in the finals. I feel very positive about this one. The most important thing is not to regret, because I’m going to give it all on this one.
“Even if this one is not going to happen, I’m very sure that another one will come. Just going to that [Wimbledon] final was really tough for me, especially the second set. But then I feel like this final, I’m going full in, I’m going for everything.”