French Open 2020

IGA leaves Paris speechless

After winning first title and Major, 19-year-old Pole says she hoped her cat was watching her on TV

A joyful Iga Swiatek of Poland after defeating American Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in the French Open final yesterday. The 19-year-old Pole became the youngest women's French Open champion since Monica Seles triumphed at age 18 in 1992. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Iga Swiatek admitted she was not good at victory speeches, she did not know what to say, and awkwardly mentioned that she hoped her cat was watching her on television at home.

But understandably so for a Polish teenager who had just won her country's first Grand Slam singles title yesterday, as she defeated American fourth seed Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 to become the youngest women's French Open champion since 1992. The 19-year-old Swiatek, at 54 the lowest-ranked woman to capture the Roland Garros title in the modern era, is the ninth first-time Major champion in the past 14 Grand Slams.

"It had to be like that that another underdog won a Grand Slam in women's tennis. It is so often right now that it is crazy," said Swiatek, who captured her first tour title in the process.

"I don't know what's going on. It's overwhelming for me, it's crazy. I'm so happy. I'm so happy my family is here finally.

"Two years ago I won a junior Grand Slam (at Wimbledon) and now I'm here. It feels like such a short time."

After claiming victory, she excitedly made her way into the stands to celebrate with her family, including former Olympic rower father Tomasz, and her coach Piotr Sierzputowski.

Swiatek, who had dropped only 28 games and not a single set the last two weeks, is the youngest women's French Open winner since Monica Seles lifted the trophy as an 18-year-old in 1992.

She is also the first teenage champion since Iva Majoli in 1997.

"It's crazy for me because I watched Rafael Nadal lift the trophy every year and now I'm in the same place," she added.

Swiatek also became just the second unseeded women's Roland Garros champion in the Open era, joining Jelena Ostapenko who claimed a shock title three years ago.

She eclipsed the run of compatriot Jadwiga Jedrzejowska - the most outstanding Polish player of the interwar period - who finished runner-up at Roland Garros in 1939.

Swiatek was only the second Polish woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era after Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon in 2012. She had never previously been beyond the last 16.

Australian Open champion Kenin, 21, was attempting to become the first woman to capture two Slams in the same year since Angelique Kerber in 2016.

"I just want to congratulate Iga on a great tournament and a great match. You played really well," she said.

Swiatek, whose only previous tour-level final came at Lugano last year, dispelled any initial fear of nerves as she won 12 of the first 15 points to surge 3-0 ahead.

However, Kenin has made a habit of fighting through tough situations in Paris and broke back when Swiatek served a double fault to allow the American to level at 3-all.

But only briefly in the first set did Swiatek show any weakness, letting slip a 3-0 lead, although Kenin's challenge appeared to be hampered by a thigh injury.

The American needed treatment at 1-2 in the second set and, on the resumption, Swiatek was utterly ruthless, conceding only three more points, She sealed the title with an unstoppable forehand, her 25th winner to Kenin's 10.

"I was just mentally consistent. I just wanted to play aggressive as in previous rounds. It was really stressful for me, so kind of hard," said Swiatek, who will rise to 17th tomorrow.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2020, with the headline IGA leaves Paris speechless. Subscribe