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Top-ranked Iga Swiatek wins French Open final, defeating American Coco Gauff

Iga Swiatek won the French Open final in two sets over No. 23 Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who was hoping to be youngest woman to win a Grand Slam since Maria Sharapova.

Swiatek took the opening set 6-1, and the second set 6-3. 

"I just told Coco don't cry and what I am doing right now?" Swiatek said after accepting the cup. She said when she was Gauff's age, she was on her first year on tour and had "no idea what I'm doing, so you will find it and you will be there, I'm pretty sure of that." 

Swiatek also said she wanted to "say something to Ukraine —  stay strong, because the world is still there." 

APTOPIX France Tennis French Open
Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates with the cup after defeating Coco Gauff of the U.S.in their final of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Saturday, June 4, 2022 in Paris. Swiatek won 6-1, 6-3. Jean-Francois Badias / AP

Gauff wiped away tears after the game, but rallied to tell the crowd at Roland Garros "this is a first time for me, so let's try to get through this." She congratulated Swiatek and said "hopefully we can play each other in more finals and hopefully I can get a win on you one of these days." 

Swiatek's 35-match unbeaten run equals one by Venus Williams in 2000 as the longest this century.

Swiatek has now won her past six tournaments and is 42-3 this season.

She has emerged as a dominant figure in tennis, with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams out of action for nearly a year and three-time major champ Ash Barty announcing in March she would retire at age 25 and relinquish the No. 1 ranking.

That allowed Swiatek to move up to the top of the WTA and she's shown she is a deserving resident there. Her last loss came in February to 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Swiatek has a game that works on all surfaces, but her greatest triumphs so far have come on red clay.

On the warmest day of the tournament, the temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius), and while the forecast predicted thunderstorms, there were just a few puffs of white in the blue sky above Court Philippe Chartrier at the outset.

Gauff did not get off to the best of starts, a little bit of early jitters that would be understandable coming from any player in a debut on this stage.

The player on the other side of the net certainly had a lot to do with the way things went.

APTOPIX France Tennis French Open
Coco Gauff of the U.S. reacts after missing a shot against Poland's Iga Swiatek during the final match at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Saturday, June 4, 2022. Thibault Camus / AP

Swiatek broke serve right from the get-go, with plenty of help from Gauff, who put a forehand into the net, double-faulted — eliciting some sighs of "Awwwww" from a supportive crowd — dumped a forehand into the net, and pushed another forehand long.

When Gauff's work-in-progress forehand betrayed her again, she got broken again to trail 3-0 after just 15 minutes of action. Soon enough, the score was 4-0 in Swiatek's favor.

Not in all cases, of course, but often, the spectators at Roland Garros tend to offer their support to underdogs and to whichever player is trailing in a particular match. Both of which applied to Gauff. So there was a surfeit of shouts of "Allez, Coco!" There were repeated cries of her chant-ready, two-syllable first name. And one fan yelled out "Coco, you can do it!"

When Gauff got on the board by holding to 4-1, the applause and roar were suitable for the capture of a set, not simply one game.

As things appeared to be getting away from her, Gauff slapped her thigh or covered her eyes, shook her head or looked up toward her parents in the stands.

What she never did was waver or concede anything.

France Tennis French Open
Poland's Iga Swiatek plays a shot against Coco Gauff of the U.S. during the final match at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Saturday, June 4, 2022. Michel Euler / AP

Gauff began the second set by breaking Swiatek for the only time, and then holding to go up 2-0. Might this now be a much closer contest? Might Gauff push Swiatek to a third set?

No. Swiatek quickly recalibrated and reasserted herself, breaking back for 2-all as Gauff's propensity for miscues returned.

Swiatek is not just winning, but winning easily, already amassing 16 sets taken by a 6-0 score in 2022 — and it's only early June.

The only Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles trophy, Swiatek does it with a mix of a topspin-laden heavy forehand — just like someone she admires greatly, 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who will face Casper Ruud in the men's final Sunday — and an all-court game, filled with variety and an appreciation of setting up moves ahead of time during a point. Much like a chess player, which she is.

Swiatek's got other attributes, too, such as strong footwork that allows her to play defense when required.

Also key to Swiatek's presence, and swiftly burgeoning aura, is her calmness on court. She has traveled on tour with a sports psychologist, who was in Swiatek's guest box on Saturday, and works on various elements of her professional and personal lives.

That includes an emphasis on maintaining focus and setting priorities, such as the determination that she is still too new at this whole business of attempting to win Grand Slam titles that she decided it was best not to attend the Champions League soccer final in Paris last weekend, something Nadal did do.

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