French Open final analysis: Iga Swiatek beats Jasmine Paolini at Roland Garros

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Iga Swiatek beat Jasmine Paolini in the French Open final at Roland Garros 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday.

The No 1 seed prevailed over the No 12 seed in 69 minutes, in a display of the titanium focus and immunity to scoreboard pressure that has made her the best women’s player in the world.

It is her fourth French Open title and third in a row, matching the feats of only Justine Henin and Monica Seles in the Open era by winning three consecutive finals at Roland Garros.

The Athletic’s writers, Charlie Eccleshare and Matt Futterman, analyze the final and what it means for tennis.

How did Swiatek shake off her nerves?

Three games into this match, and after all the talk of how Paolini would start in her first Grand Slam final, it was actually Swiatek who looked a little nervous.

She made a few errors and found herself an early break down at 2-1. It was understandable that she might feel a little on edge — she was going into the match as the overwhelming favourite where anything but a win would have been a disaster. She was also chasing history, looking for three in a row and the chance to draw joint-third with Justine Henin on the Open Era Roland Garros leaderboard, with four titles.

But then Swiatek does what she does better than anyone in the sport: Dust herself down and get to work. She won five games in a row, dropping just four points in the process, to win the set 6-2. It was a staggeringly one-sided sequence, which didn’t feel entirely inevitable at the time given the promising way Paolini had started.

Paolini also didn’t play badly in this period — she was just suddenly up against an opponent playing with lethal controlled aggression and absolutely refusing to miss. Paolini’s remarkable unforced error count also fell off, as her shot tolerance broke down in the face of Swiatek’s resolve.

It was a run that completely broke Paolini, bleeding into the next set where Swiatek raced to her trademark breadstick. She went to a 5-0 lead, to make it a total of 10 successive games. 

Charlie Eccleshare

Could Jasmine Paolini have done much more?

Becoming an elite-level athlete requires a level of self-belief that is almost unfathomable to the rest of us. And so Paolini must have gone into this match thinking she had a puncher’s chance. Thinking that if she played a lights-out match and was able to dominate rallies with her forehand then maybe, just maybe Swiatek would cough up some errors and feel the pressure of knowing she was the overwhelming favourite.

For the first few games, Paolini kept up her side of the bargain, and made a start better than anyone could have imagined when she pinched an early break for 2-1. Her level didn’t drop hugely in the rest of the set but she suddenly found herself spinning around in the Swiatek washing machine and down a set in next to no time at all.

And after not much more time, it was all over.

So, could Paolini have done more? Could she, for instance, have made fewer errors? Sure, but so many of the mistakes she made were because of the relentlessness of the player on the other side of the net. Could she have been more aggressive? Maybe, but again she was given so little room to get on the front foot by Swiatek’s punishing depth.

In reality, this was just a bit of a mismatch, as was expected going in, when Paolini winning around four games was considered par. It’s a contest that until very recently, if you’d seen it listed as a first-round match at a Grand Slam, you wouldn’t have given it a second’s thought. The assumption would have been that Swiatek would breeze it for the loss of a few games. Paolini has made huge progress this year and should be hugely proud of her run here. She should not be down herself when it comes to reflecting on this final either. It was just a step too far against the best player in the world right now by some distance.

Matt Futterman

Does scoreboard pressure exist for Swiatek?

There were three moments in this year’s French Open when Swiatek could have wilted.

On three occasions she was rattled, but she could pull out different responses to match each occasion. The through line? The unmatched confidence she has in her ability and her resolve in this moment, especially on the red clay of Roland Garros.

Her refrain in recent months has been that she knows she has the tennis to beat nearly everyone nearly all the time. It’s just a matter of getting anything that might be getting in the way, out of the way. When Naomi Osaka was serving to knock her out of the tournament in the second round, Swiatek stopped playing the match and simply started playing points. She knew Osaka had been away from the tension of Grand Slam tennis, while she had been immersed in it. One good point would lead to the next.

In the second set against Coco Gauff in the semifinal, she fell down 3-1 and Gauff appeared to be getting her teeth into the match. Swiatek paid no attention to the scoreboard. She told herself she had broken Gauff’s serve a few times already and there was no reason she wasn’t going to do it again and even up the score. She did.

In the final, Paolini got the first service break and went ahead 2-1. The stadium rocked with noise. Swiatek dialed in on what was seemingly her game plan – moving Paolini back and forth across the baseline. It worked.

Paolini won just one more game.

Matt Futterman

What next for the French Open?

Saturday, June 8: Men’s doubles final: Marcelo Arevalo/Mate Pavic (19) vs. Simone Bolelli/Andrea Vavassori (11)

Sunday, June 9: Men’s singles final: Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Alexander Zverev (4); women’s doubles final: Sara Errani/Jasmine Paolini (11) vs. Coco Gauff/Katerina Siniakova (5)

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(Top photo: Mateo Villalba/Getty Images)

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