Iga Swiatek makes French Open final to continue roll, will face Sofia Kenin

The Pole with the huge forehand ended the surprising stint of a fellow unseeded player, Nadia Podoroska, with a 6-2 6-1 win in blustery Paris to become the first player from her country to reach the finale at Roland Garros in the Open Era.

She hasn’t dropped a set yet and has only conceded 23 games — an average of fewer than four per outing.

“I’m kind of surprised because I never would have thought before the tournament that I would play so good here but on the other hand, I always knew that if I’m going to be in the final of a grand slam it’s going to be at the French Open,” Swiatek, who won the French Open junior doubles crown and also made the junior singles semifinals in 2018, said on court in a post-match interview.

“So I’m really happy. It’s like a dream come true.”

Swiatek will face a grand slam champion Saturday in Sofia Kenin and rest assured the feisty American won’t be taking the 19-year-old fan of Guns N’Roses and AC/DC lightly.

For now, Swiatek doesn’t want to think that far ahead.

“I’m just happy I’m in the final,” said Swiatek, also still in contention in doubles. “I don’t care what’s gong to happen. It’s just overwhelming for me.”

Kenin’s path to the final has been substantially tougher, including her 6-4 7-5 win over Petra Kvitova in the second semifinal when the wind kicked up further as the fall temperatures dropped further. Kenin simply played the big points better, converting four out of five break chances compared to two out of 12 for two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova.

Turnaround from Rome

It has been some turnaround for Kenin, whose lone warmup match on the clay was a 6-0 6-0 loss to US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka at the Italian Open.

Kenin will feature in her second grand slam final after winning this year’s Australian Open.

Kenin is bidding to win her second grand slam title in Paris.

“It’s not easy getting to a grand slam final,” said the 21-year-old. “Having two this year, it’s really special.”

READ: Petra Kvitova reaches ‘miracle’ semifinal at the French Open

While Swiatek’s last two opponents might have been ranked outside the top 100, they were certainly in form.

And look who Swiatek beat in the first four rounds — last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova, crafty doubles grand slam winner Hsieh Su-Wei, resurgent former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard and two-time grand slam winner Simona Halep.

After thumping a service winner on match point, the world No. 54 turned to look at her box with an expression that suggested, “what’s happening?”

Swiatek reacts after winning match point in her French Open semifinal.
It brought back memories of Bianca Andreescu’s celebrations during her breakout US Open last year.

Swiatek, for the most part, just hasn’t let her opponents breathe during the fortnight. In five of her six victories, she has led by a break at the first sit down.

Against Podoroska, she was up 3-0.

Despite the defeat, it has been a career-changing tournament, too, for Podoroska.

Podoroska has enjoyed a sensational run at Roland Garros.

At 131st, she was the lowest-ranked woman to make the semifinals at the French Open and was a win away from becoming the first qualifier to make a grand slam final.

She also gave Argentina two semifinalists at the French Open, along with Diego Schwartzman in the men’s draw.

Kvitova said it was a “miracle” for her to appear in a French Open semifinal eight years after her last one and four years after she was attacked in her home in the Czech Republic.

She was unquestionably a sentimental favorite.

Kenin comes through

But Kvitova’s free-swinging game on her least comfortable surface came unstuck at crucial moments, dovetailing with Kenin’s familiar unwillingness to back down.

Kvitova managed to break a shaky Kenin at 4-5 in the second set to stay in the match only to be broken immediately. And in the final game, Kvitova’s break point with Kenin stranded found the net.

Kenin and Kvitova meet at the net following their French Open semifinal.

Kenin and Swiatek have never met at the highest level but the latter won their duel in the juniors at Roland Garros in 2016.

When it was pointed out to Kenin that Swiatek has swept through the draw without losing a set or many games, she was complimentary.

“Of course, she’s playing some great tennis, having great results,” said Kenin.

But then she added: “I mean, that obviously doesn’t mean anything if I’m playing well.

“I’m hoping that with my experience from Melbourne, it will help me for Saturday’s final.”