There will be a new US Open women’s singles champion this year, and Ons Jabeur and Iga Swiatek remained in contention in very different ways at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday.
Jabeur needed just 66 minutes to dispatch Caroline Garcia, a quick-striking Frenchwoman who likes to imitate an airplane after her victories but was grounded by the weight of this occasion. Swiatek needed more than two hours to scrap and come back against Aryna Sabalenka, the Belarusian star who is a force of nature and one of the exceedingly rare ball-strikers powerful enough to dictate terms to the explosive Swiatek.
But Swiatek, still the world No. 1 by a cavernous margin, found a way to navigate in heavy weather, rallying from losing the first set and from falling behind by 4-2 in the third to prevail by 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 and reach her first major final on a surface that is not red and slippery.
She has won two French Opens on clay, the first out of close to nowhere in October 2020 and the other as the heavy favourite this June. But Swiatek, who has won six tournaments during this breakthrough season, can take her campaign and career to a new level if she can win her first hardcourt major on Saturday. She said she was proud that she had learned to adjust on the run and at rest; sitting on changeovers with her eyes closed while trying to solve tennis riddles.
It is a method she has long emphasized in her work with Daria Abramowicz, her performance psychologist. “Earlier I felt like my emotions kind of were taking over and I was panicking a little bit when I was losing,” Swiatek said.
“For sure I grew up. I learned a lot, and the work we’ve put in with Daria for sure helped. Right now it’s just easier for me to actually logically think what I can change. And I feel like I have more skills to do that than one type of way to play. So I’m pretty happy that it changed because I think that’s basically the most important thing on the highest level.”
Jabeur has also worked on her body and mind and has been rewarded with the best season of her career. Sitting at No. 2 in the yearlong points race behind Swiatek, Jabeur, whom her fellow-Tunisians have nicknamed the Minister of Happiness, brought some more sunshine to her country and her season on Thursday. Garcia had the hottest hand in tennis with a 13-match winning streak.
But Jabeur met the moment with power and precision; with variety and guile. She won the first set in 23 minutes as Garcia pressed and Jabeur slammed aces and chipped backhands that skidded low on the blue Arthur Ashe Stadium hard court.
She closed out the match, 6-1, 6-3, punctuating the rout with a shout and a tumble before rising quickly to embrace Garcia, a friend, at the net. Jabeur has followed her first grand slam singles final in July at Wimbledon with a run to the final in New York. But Swiatek, 21, deserves to be the favourite on Saturday even though Jabeur has had a more straightforward run to her first US Open final.
“She fully deserves to be in the final. I think it’s going to be a great battle,” Swiatek said of Jabeur.
(New York Times News Service)
Match starts: 1.30am IST on Sunday, live on Sony Sports Network

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