US Open: Season’s finest to serve up major finale

Two supreme talents Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur return to a Grand Slam final hoping to clinch their own piece of history.

Iga Swiatek / Quarts de finale US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

As soon as this line-up was rubber stamped into the draw social media was buzzing with “dream final” scrawled across countless posts.

It’s the world No.1 Iga Swiatek, seeking her third major, whilst Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur is intent on turning the tables after Wimbledon final heartache back in July.

It’s No.1 versus No.2 in the race to the WTA Finals, two players with all the variety and tools to dominate, possessing a killer instinct, a duo playing with plenty of panache.

Positivity providing Iga peak motivation

There have been plenty of tricky situations for top seed Swiatek this fortnight, for example falling 0-2 and 2-4 down in the decider of her semi-final great escape against Aryna Sabalenka.

The Pole has methodically dug herself out of any holes in matches, sprinkling in plenty of world No.1 level tennis. When facing adversity, business mode, no-mistake lockdown has been engaged during the finishing straights.

“I feel like my level of trust should be for sure higher. I'm that kind of person who is not yet trusting myself,” admitted the two-time Roland-Garros champion.

“I feel like I trust myself for sure on clay. Here maybe I still needed to prove myself in a couple of matches maybe against heavy hitters and maybe come back a couple more times.

“It's not like it's something negative for me. For sure, having doubts is not nice, but I also find it pretty motivating to actually try to get better and try to find new skills to get as close to the trust as possible.”

There’s the Swiatek mentality in a brief snippet. A Polish perfectionist, but is always striving for me, keen to constantly learn and evolve. A key factor is twisting everything into a positive.

Iga Swiatek / Demi-finale US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Take early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati, Swiatek was undeterred and utilised her free time away from matches to build up efficiently for Flushing Meadows.

“I just feel like the work that I did pays off,” added the 21-year-old.“I'm pretty happy that in this tournament I was kind of fresh actual mentally. I'm pretty happy that even though maybe I wasn't feeling 100% perfectly from the beginning of the tournament, I was still able to get better and better and to play really solid game.

“Like on clay I feel just perfect. But for me actually winning when I'm not feeling perfectly, it's the best kind of thing and best feeling. The satisfaction is pretty big.”

Swiatek has been able to find those pieces to the puzzle out of the main spotlight, away from global news such as Serena Williams’ box office farewell.

Without a winning streak to defend, without the majority of attention, the Pole has embraced the circumstances for her finest US Open showing to date.

“I was actually thinking about that every time I watched Serena. I have never been in a situation like being No. 1 and being in this tournament, so it's hard for me to say,” claimed Swiatek.

“Maybe a little bit it took a little bit pressure off me. But for sure just not playing well before also took some pressure off. I was not aiming to do that, but I'm pretty happy that I converted it in a positive way.”

Revenge on the menu for Jabeur

The top seed will hope to harness the memories from previous trophy bouts. It started with Roland-Garros 2020, Swiatek is undefeated in her last nine finals, winning all of those in straight sets. The set scores posted are as follows; 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. 

“Iga never loses finals, so it's going to be very tough,” joked Jabeur. “I know she struggled a little bit with the balls here, but I don't see her struggling much, to be honest with you.

“She's playing awesome. Definitely going for my revenge. I love playing on this surface, and I feel like I know exactly what to do against her.”

Iga Swiatek, Rome trophy 2022© Ray Giubilo/FFT

Ons is on a mission.

It’s the first women’s Grand Slam singles final to feature two Top 5 talents since the 2018 Australian Open. 18 majors later these two definitely sit clear of the rest.

It’s an intriguing head-to-head locked at 2-2. Jabeur leads 1-0 in majors after Wimbledon 2021, they’re 1-1 on hard courts. In their most recent encounter, Swiatek in the middle of ripping through 37 successive match wins, the Pole claimed a 6-2, 6-2 triumph in the Rome final.

“There are a lot of challenges because she's a really solid player and she's second in the race right now. Wimbledon final, it shows how much progress she has done,” stated Swiatek.

Ons Jabeur & Iga Swiatek / Wimbledon 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“She has different game style than most of the players. She has a great touch. All these things mixed up, she's just a tough opponent.

“I don't know what was the score in Rome, but I remember it as a really tight match anyway, because there were a lot of ads… I think it's going to be a great battle.”

Jabeur has earned the second chance to strike major glory, hoping to eradicate her disappointment from Wimbledon in July. However, suffering in south west London laid the foundations for the No.5 seed, an understanding of what it takes at the very peak.

“Feels more real. At Wimbledon I was kind of just living the dream, and I couldn't believe it. Even just after the match, I was just going to do my things and not realising it was an amazing achievement already,” reflected the 28-year-old, talking up her title credentials. 

“I hope I'm getting used to it, just happy the fact that I backed up the results in Wimbledon and people are not really surprised I'm in the finals, going and just doing my thing.

Ons Jabeur / Demi-finale US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“But then I feel like this final, I'm going for everything. Definitely also learning from Rome's final, Madrid, and other ones.“

Millions of people across the Arab world will be tuning in to watch their tennis hero shoot for more history. The first African woman to reach the US Open final embraces her status as the Tunisian trailblazer. Just imagine the scenes back in her homeland if Jabeur strikes major gold.

Jabeur walked into her semi-final press conference with a t-shirt stating, “face your fears.” The fear of losing won’t hold Ons back.

“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.”