By ANDREW DAMPF, AP Sports Writer
ROME (AP) – If there’s one point in Iga Swiatek’s three -month unbeaten run that points to why the highest -ranked player has become nearly impossible to lose, it’s definitely a 19 -shot rally he won against Ons Jabeur in the Italian Open final.
The point shows all the elements of Swiatek’s game, explaining why the 20-year-old Polish player is a particular favorite to win his second French Open title when the clay-court Grand Slam begins in Sunday.
After rising from a 0-40 deficit and facing a fourth break point late in the second set in a 6-2, 6-2 win, Swiatek really found his rhythm. He ran two drop shots, got the passing shot on the line – which landed on the line – and finally won it with a backhand stop -volley drop shot.
Shown is Swiatek’s heavy topspin forehand, his expert court coverage and fast movement, his hands and felt ball in the net, and – perhaps most importantly – his non -stop character, which is very important in clay.
“I shifted my attitude from,‘ Whoa, he’s going to spread me now, ’to,‘ I’ll get every ball now and play every point until the last shot, ’” Swiatek said.
Perhaps Swiatek’s reaction after he won the point was more expressive: Instead of celebrating, he immediately went and checked the score of the ball from Jabeur’s try, raising his finger to the umpire on the bench to show that he thought the ball was gone . That thought probably entered Swiatek’s head during the point, but he was able to divide and maintain his relentless focus on the task at hand until the issue was raised after the point.
“I did everything I could. I visited him in every corner of the court, ”said Jabeur. “I know Iga will play better if you open the court, so maybe I’m still in the middle and let him miss the point. I don’t know. The thing is, I (hit) a lot more (different) ) shots at that point. He deserves to win – for sure. ”
Whether she deserves to win or not, no one has beaten Swiatek since 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko beat her in a third set tiebreaker on Feb. 16. She has won 42 of the last 43 sets she has fought.
If there are any questions as to whether Swiatek deserves to be given No. No. 1 when Ash Barty abruptly retired two months ago, that debate ended during Swiatek’s 28 -game winning streak.
The last player to win consecutive games was Justine Henin, who won 32 consecutive games in 2007 and 2008. The longest consecutive consecutive games belonged to Martina Navratilova, who had 74 runs in 1984.
“Iga is Iga,” said Jabeur, who entered the final with his own 11 consecutive wins. “He deserves to be here. He deserves to win games like that.
During the women’s final, a fan held up a sign that read, “Avoid tennis politics,” – an obvious reference to Wimbledon’s decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus because of the war in Ukraine. .
Since early March, Swiatek has been playing with a ribbon attached to his hat with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
He called it “somewhat strange” that some players stopped wearing the same tributes in Ukraine, “because there was a war, there were people who were still suffering.”
“I’ll wear it until the situation improves,” Swiatek said.
With the war in Ukraine approaching in three months, more than 6 million people have fled the country since Russian troops invaded on February 24, according to the UN refugee agency. More than half of the refugees, 3.3 million, fled to Poland.
During the trophy ceremony on Sunday, Swiatek made a mention with his family at home.
“Certainly the war affected Poland even more,” Swiatek said. “It’s something I don’t experience with them because I travel all over Europe.”
Swiatek added that he plans to announce a new war-related initiative.
“I really want to show my support to the Ukrainians,” he said, “as every Polish at home does.”
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