NEW YORK (AP) — Iga Swiatek finally met Serena Williams at this US Open.
Ons Jabeur finally met Andy Roddick.
With those items crossed off their to-do lists, Swiatek and Jabeur will look to tackle other important pursuits – winning a championship – when they play each other on Saturday in the first final at Flushing Meadows for each.
Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland who is ranked No. 1, and Jabeur, a 28-year-old from Tunisia who is No. 5 and will rise to No. 2 on Monday, have been the two dominant figures in women’s tennis in 2022 .So it certainly seems fitting that they are the last two players competing in the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.
It’s the kind of one-year success from one or two players that the WTA hasn’t seen in recent years, especially as Williams winds down her career.
The closest thing to a player who has asserted herself over the past two seasons has been Ash Barty, who won three majors and led the rankings before suddenly retiring aged 25 in March. Swiatek succeeded her at No. 1 amid a 37-match unbeaten streak that was the longest on the women’s tour in a quarter of a century.
“We used to have Serena, you know? Serena can’t play every tournament and she’s been pretty consistent. That really inspired a lot of players,” Jabeur said. “Yes, it’s definitely better for us to be consistent and do great results. That’s what we’re trying to do. Iga has inspired us with her winning streak and we will continue to compete.”
The two finalists, whose head-to-head series are tied at 2-all, are first and second on the tour in match wins this season: Swiatek is 54-7, Jabeur is 44-13.
They are also the first and second finalists they have reached this season: Swiatek is in her seventh place, Jabeur in her sixth.
One big difference, though, is Swiatek is 6-0 in those finals — and has won nine straight — while Jabeur is 2-3.
“Iga never loses finals,” Jabeur said, “so it will be very difficult.”
Another big difference: Swiatek already has two Grand Slam trophies, from the 2020 French Open and this June. She can become the first woman since Angelique Kerber in 2016 to collect two major titles in one season.
Jabeur lost her only previous Slam title match at Wimbledon in July, when she became the first Arab and first African woman to reach a major final in the professional era, which began in 1968.
She made it two in a row with an easy 6-1, 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia in Thursday night’s semifinals. Swiatek had to work harder for her semi-final victory, coming back from a set down, then twice from break down in the third, to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to take the last four games. and 16 of the last 20 points.
Swiatek also had to overturn a one-set deficit in the fourth round and is quite adept at making in-match adjustments when needed. This has not always been the case, but she has made progress in this area with the help of a sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, who travels with her.
“Earlier, I felt like my emotions kind of took over and I panicked a bit when I lost. Sure, I grew up, I learned a lot. And the work we did with Daria certainly helped,” Swiatek said. “Right now it’s easier for me to think logically about what I can change. And I feel like I have more skills to do that from a gameplay standpoint.”
Two weeks ago, before the start of the US Open, she proudly posted a photo of herself and Williams on social media, with Swiatek writing that she had “finally found the courage” to speak to the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
And Jabeur was just as excited to talk to him — and hugged — her idol, Roddickthe 2003 US Open champion, who was the last American to win a tennis championship.
“I didn’t know: Should I shake his hand? Hug? I do not know. But I went for the hug, of course,” Jabeur said. “He was very good. He told me that he follows me and supports me, which is incredible.”
Asked by a reporter why he became a Roddick fan years ago, Jabeur cited his serve and his personality.
Oh, and one more thing.
“He’s also handsome. I had to say that,” he said with a wink and a smile. “Don’t tell my husband.”
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