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‘No expectations’ for Wimbledon

PARIS (AFP) – Iga Swiatek said that she has “no expectations” for Wimbledon despite taking her winning streak to 35 matches by securing a second French Open title. The world number one cruised past teenager Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 in Saturday’s final at Roland Garros to win her sixth successive tournament this year, including four WTA 1,000 titles and one major.

The Pole won the Indian Wells-Miami double to show her hard-court prowess, having also lifted the title in Doha, and has now dominated on clay by emerging victorious in Stuttgart, Rome and Paris.

But to extend her unbeaten run, she may have to improve her career grass-court record of four wins and four losses in main-draw matches.

“My coach (Tomasz Wiktorowski) believes I can win more matches on grass,” said Swiatek, who has reached the second week at seven consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.

“I don’t know about that yet. But I would like to add like one or two.

“But honestly, grass is always tricky. I actually like the part that I have no expectations there. It’s something kind of refreshing.”

Iga Swiatek kissed the trophy after winning the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament in Paris. PHOTO: AFP
US’ Coco Gauff reacts as she receives a trophy after losing against Poland’s Iga Swiatek. PHOTO: AP

Last year, Swiatek showed signs of improvement on the surface by reaching the Wimbledon fourth round and her coach Wiktorowski saw his former charge Agnieszka Radwanska reach her only Grand Slam final at the All England Club in 2012.

“I’m going to just prepare my best,” said Swiatek.

“Maybe with his experiences that he had with Aga Radwanska, it was her favourite surface, so maybe he’s going to give me some tips that are actually going to be really helpful, and I’m going to enjoy playing on grass a little bit more.”

She equalled Venus Williams’ run of 35 straight wins in 2000 for the longest winning streak by a woman in the 21st Century.

Swiatek’s victory also took her past Serena Williams’ longest unbeaten run of 34 matches, something she said made her win even more satisfying.

“I think honestly, it may seem pretty weird, but having that 35th win and kind of doing something more than Serena did, it’s something special,” said the 21-year-old.

“Because I always wanted to… have some kind of a record. In tennis it’s pretty hard after Serena’s career. So that really hit me, you know. Obviously winning a Grand Slam too, but this one was pretty special because I felt like I’ve done something that nobody has ever done, and maybe it’s gonna be even more.”

Swiatek has also now won her last nine finals, with the only WTA final defeat in her career coming in a low-key event in Lugano when she was just 17.

“I try to treat it as any other match, which is pretty hard and kind of not possible, because there are always going to be like bigger amount of stress,” she added.

“I guess I’m kind of accepting that a little bit more and just, I try to lean on the strengths…

“I’m also aware that my opponents are also going to be stressed. So I try to not panic and just be less stressed than they are.”

Swiatek now boasts an impressive 21-2 win-loss record at Roland Garros, although she has a long way to go to match her idol Rafael Nadal’s 111-3.

“He had many more chances to lose, so I think his stat is much, much better,” she said of the 13-time champion, who faces Casper Ruud in Sunday’s men’s final.

The 21-year-old Polish star stormed to a win in only 68 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Swiatek celebrated her sixth straight title this year in the players’ box with her friends and family. “I told Coco ‘Don’t cry’ and that’s what I am doing. Congrats to Coco,” said an emotional Swiatek.

“You are doing an amazing job. At your age, I was on my first year on tour and I did not know what I was doing. You will find it, I am sure of that.”

A disconsolate Gauff was left sitting on her seat in tears after a nervous performance, punctuated by 23 unforced errors and three double faults.

The 18-year-old American came up short in her bid to become the youngest Grand Slam singles champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004.

“I want to congratulate Iga, what you’ve done on tour in these past couple of months has been amazing,” said Gauff, as the tears flowed again when she thanked her team.

“I hope we can play in more finals and maybe I can win one… I want to thank my team, I’m sorry I couldn’t get this one today.”

Swiatek, only the 10th woman to win multiple French Opens in the Open era, lost just one set in the tournament – against China’s Zheng Qinwen in the fourth round.She has now won all three of her career meetings with Gauff, who was playing in her first major final.

Swiatek improved her remarkable record in finals, having won her last nine on the WTA Tour.

Swiatek expressed her support for Ukraine during the trophy presentation, despite saying before the final that she does not feel ready to speak about off-court issues. “I want to say to Ukraine, ‘Stay strong’. The war is still there,” she said, to cheers from the stands.

Gauff looked nervous in the opening exchanges and a flurry of unforced errors handed Swiatek a break in the very first game.

The 18th seed found herself 3-0 and a double break down just 16 minutes into the match, as Swiatek’s powerful backhand helped her win a lengthy third game on her fifth break point.

Gauff finally got on the board with a scrappy hold to the delight of the crowd, but she had dropped a set for the first time in the tournament just minutes later. Swiatek was not playing her best, but a cross-court backhand winner brought up two set points and she took the second opportunity when Gauff fired wide.

The Pole gifted her opponent a potential route back into the match, making four unforced errors to throw away her serve in the first game of the second set. Swiatek recomposed herself though as the mistakes continued to come from Gauff, breaking back to level at 2-2.

She made it five straight games to move within one of the title, losing only five points in the process.

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