The finalists for this year’s French Open have been decided. One, the overwhelming tournament favourite from the beginning Iga Swiatek, and the other, the 18-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff.
In preparation for Saturday’s final, we’ve previewed both player’s respective chances by taking a look at their routes to the final.
French Open Final Preview
Iga SwiateK: One slight hiccup
Overall, as expected, Swiatek has been in imperious form.
- Swiatek’s first two rounds against Alison Riske and Lesia Tsurenko were about as one-sided as one would expect from somebody on a 28-match winning streak coming into the tournament.
- Swiatek blinked in the third-round against Danka Kovinic from a winning position in the second set but righted the ship in the end to close it in straight sets.
- Swiatek’s semifinal and quarterfinal against Daria Kasatkina and Jess Pegula started off tight but eventually everything fell her way.
Five of her six matches were played without a dropping a set. The one proper hiccup in her six matches so far?
Up-and-comer Qinwen Zheng stole the first set from Swiatek in a tiebreak before falling away in the next two due to menstrual pain. She showed the tour what weapons are required to trouble the world #1.
- Fearlessness: Swiatek saw five set points come and go before the Chinese converted on her first. Playing without fear was (obviously) absolutely crucial to beating her as Zheng saved the set points with aplomb.
- A big groundstroke: At least one groundstroke has got to have the hitting power required to hit through the ferociousness of Swiatek. Zheng’s forehand was huge able to hit flat and confident through the court to give Swiatek plenty of bother.
- A big first-serve: By far the most important asset of the lot. Kasatkina possesses some of the best groundstrokes in the game but without a way of winning the odd cheap point on serve, she didn’t stand a chance of holding enough times to notch the win. Zheng’s first-serve bailed her out a few times (including an ace at the tail-end of the tiebreak).
A little more on that last point. Qinwen Zheng is the only player besides Luidmilla Samsonova to take a set off Swiatek on clay this year. Samsonova arguably covered her serve even more confidently than Zheng and it led to her very nearly defeating Swiatek.
Iga Swiatek has everything on her side but perhaps there is the slightest hint of vulnerability for Gauff to pounce on…
Coco Gauff: Arrival
Coco Gauff is here.
Having been on the tour for the best part of three years, it’s easy to forget Gauff has only just turned 18 years old.
In perfect harmony with her coming of age, Gauff’s game has taken its most mature form to date this past fortnight. She’s yet to drop a set at this year’s French Open – her usual dips in form have been much fewer and farther between, her game as rock-solid and steady as we’ve ever seen it. Her defence and movement has been particularly noteworthy as she’s ground her opponents into the red dirt in the final stretch of her last three matches (three total games dropped vs Trevisan, Stephens and Mertens in her second sets against them).
In terms of the attributes required to give Swiatek trouble however?
- Fearlessness: There’s a slight question mark over this factor for sure. Gauff has shown a new attitude this fortnight that suggests she is ready to accept any situation come what may but there’s no doubt a first Grand Slam final should be startling for an 18-year-old. It’s possible she swings with freedom but we’re not entirely convinced.
- A big groundstroke: Gauff’s groundstroke red-line is just high enough to test Swiatek. Her forehand is the ropier of the two shots but it’s rarely went off the boil this tournament. There is the slightest worry Gauff’s patience in constructing points so far may not be an aggressive-enough mindset – even if her backhand is at its absolute best, there is a decent chance red-lining that forehand may be too big an ask for the American.
- A big first-serve: With the previous point in mind, Gauff’s first-serve becomes even more significant. In order to keep the points short, Gauff will need one of her best days ever on first-serve. If there are any cracks in this shot, they will be exposed where they may not have been the past fortnight. Fortunately, Gauff can go into the match knowing this shot at least has the potential to be good enough to win service games.
Iga Swiatek vs Coco Gauff: Who Wins The Final?
Coco Gauff is one of the few players with the serve required to avoid being dominated by Swiatek’s return game.
That said, she can’t go into her match with a player of Swiatek’s calibre expecting to construct points over the same length of time. She has the peak required to go on streaks against the world #1 but to sustain that level for enough time to actually get the upset?
Gauff has the potential to lift the trophy if Swiatek is feeling especially nervy but we’re expecting the Pole to come out with the confidence of somebody on a 34-match win-streak.
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