Ons Jabeur made it to the women’s US Open final on Thursday night, while Iga Swiatek had to rally to make it happen, a worthy comeback for the world No.
Swiatek looked on the verge of defeat before coming back strong to win the last four games and beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. The first-seeded Pole bounced back after losing the first set, then after falling 4-2 in the third she fought back to claim 16 of the final 20 points.
“Honestly, I knew I had nothing to lose, basically. Aryna served really well, better than our other games. Mentally, those two games I lost helped me get back on the court,” said Swiatek, 21. “I backed off a bit on the return but just went all-in and the balls I played went in.
“I feel like my confidence level should be higher, but I’m the person who doesn’t trust me yet. I feel like I trust myself on clay, and here I tried to accept that I still don’t trust myself and that I have to prove myself against the big hitters. I don’t care. It’s not like it’s a negative. Having doubts isn’t nice, but I found it quite motivating.
It’s a stunning admission considering Swiatek has dominated as the best player in the world this year, winning 37 in a row at one point and claiming six titles. But after losing the first set on Thursday, a quick trip to the locker room for a bathroom break helped turn things around.
“I needed to pull myself together,” Swiatek said.
When asked what she thought to herself to start with, she joked, “That was pretty much what I did. I felt lighter. Sorry, that’s disgusting.
But Swiatek acknowledged that she had become tougher mentally and was in a better headspace than she was earlier in her career, which helped her to a tough victory.
“When I was younger, all I could do in the bathroom when I was depressed was cry,” Swiatek said. “This time I can actually think about what to change, fix the problems.”
Sixth-seeded Sabalenka fell to 0-3 in the Grand Slam semi-final.
Swiatek, who won French Open this spring, will face fifth-seeded Jabeur, who is looking to become the first woman to win multiple majors in the same season since Angelique Kerber in 2016.
Earlier, Jabeur, who lost in the Wimbledon final, made short work of Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3. The Tunisian is the first African or Arab woman to reach the final at Flushing Meadows in the open era.
“I will definitely learn from all the finals I played, especially the last one at Wimbledon,” Jabeur said. “I will give everything, I will certainly seek the title.
“[It] feels more real, to be honest with you. At Wimbledon I was just living the dream and I couldn’t believe it. … But now I hope I get used to it. [I’m] I’m just happy to have confirmed the results at Wimbledon and people aren’t really surprised that I’m in the final.
Jabeur snapped her French opponent’s 13-game winning streak (including a quarter-final win over American Coco Gauff) and improved to 6-0 in the semis this year.
“I don’t have a good record with quarterbacks; but now the semi-finals, we are very good friends,” Jabuer said with a laugh. “Apparently I like to play the finals.
“I remember saying I wanted to be in the top 5, I wanted to win a Grand Slam [tournament], and I wanted to qualify for the Masters. … Check. Check. There’s one more [I’m] will check out soon hopefully.
Jabeur smashed Garcia right out of the gate.
Garcia, the 17th seed, had only once lost consecutive matches throughout this tournament and hadn’t even faced a set point, let alone lost one. But Jabeur broke her three times in a first set in which Garcia looked capricious, with 14 unforced errors.
Now, Jabeur will face Swiatek to cap his run at the US Open, which is big enough for football-mad Tunisia to tune into their quarter-final on Tuesday instead of Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League win over Juventus.
“In Tunisia, everything revolves around football. But people weren’t watching the game, they were watching my game, which is impressive for me,” Jabeur said. “I was surprised.”
New York Post