Friday, June 14, 2024

Roland Garros | Can Paolini complete the surprise with a stunt against Swiatek in the final? – Preview


That Iga Swiatek would reach the final at Roland Garros was seen in advance by friend and foe as a fait accompli. The three-time winner and two-time defending champion is in the final battle, but her campaign did not go completely smoothly. She was even one point away from elimination in the second round, when fellow champion Naomi Osaka failed to deliver the final blow on match point in a instant classic of a competition.

Swiatek was awakened.


Roland Garros | Osaka drops match point against Swiatek

No getting used to it

The topseed left no stone unturned in the remaining competition. Winning a point — let alone games — has proven to be a daunting task. Future number two in the world Coco Gauff was also unable to avoid being stopped by the wolverine for the eleventh (!) time in the semi-finals. Swiatek’s tally is twenty wins in a row in Paris, after final victories in 2022 and 2023. Moreover, she is about to become the second player after Serena Williams to claim the clay tournaments of Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros in one season .

Despite the endless winning, there is no sense of routine yet, the 23-year-old player said after her victory in the semi-finals.

“Only after winning tournaments do I realize what I have achieved. During the tournament, every match feels like any other.” Yet Swiatek is not hermetically sealed off from the outside world. “Sometimes it is difficult to forget what is at stake and notice the atmosphere surrounding big matches. So I can’t say I’m used to it.”

Forza Italia

Although Paolini faces the thankless task of stopping the bulldozer that is Swiatek, the 28-year-old Italian has already caused quite a few surprises this year and this tournament. The late bloomer performed a stunt in the quarter-finals against Elena Rybakina and already had a breakthrough season before this final place at Roland Garros. She has already reached the last 16 at the Australian Open, won the major WTA 1000 tournament in Dubai and has quickly climbed the WTA rankings.

Anyone who thought that Paolini was only 1.63 meters tall was out of shape was disappointed. Anyone who thinks that the Tuscan can only defend because of her compact stature is also wrong. Dropping a ball a little too short in the court against Paolini is extremely dangerous.

In former Roland Garros finalist and ex-world number five Sara Errani, Paolini can count not only on an excellent doubles partner, but also on an excellent mentor. Errani was part of the golden generation of Italian women’s tennis with US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, Roland Garros winner Francesca Schiavone and former doubles partner Roberta Vinci. Although Jannik Sinner demands the most attention in 2024, the continued success of the Italian top ladies should not be forgotten.


Roland Garros | Jasmine Paolini provides a surprise – number four Elena Rybakina kicks out

Dream scenarios

The bad news for Paolini is that she never won more than three games in her two previous meetings with Swiatek. The clashes took place on the hard court of Prague in 2018 and in the first round at the US Open in 2022, the edition that Swiatek won. Paolini explained in Paris how she has slowly but surely developed the feeling that she belongs and that she can compete with the best players in the world. An evolution…

“When I started playing tennis, I did it purely for fun. I was not a dreamer. When I started training as a professional I started dreaming of a professional career, but never of reaching the number one ranking or winning a Grand Slam tournament. I never dreamed of being this big,” said the always broadly smiling player in conversation with the international press after her resounding victory over teenage talent Mirra Andreeva in the last four. In any case, Paolini is assured of seventh position in the world rankings after Roland Garros.


Roland Garros | Double netball for Paolini on break point against

Don’t dare to dream

“I never even dreamed of the top 10, but I did cherish hope. Hoping, without believing. Step by step, that faith grew and I dared to dream of things that were within reach,” continued Paolini, who has Polish and Ghanaian roots and could have a basic conversation in Polish with her opponent in the final.

“I think it’s amazing how Nole (Djokovic, ed.) said as a child that he wanted to become number one in the world and win Wimbledon. That you can dream like that as a child. The same applies to Jannik (Sinner, ed.), who said at the age of 15 that he dreamed of the number one position.”

Paolini’s openness is refreshing and indicates that there are several roads that lead to Rome. “I never even dreamed of being in a Grand Slam final, but here I am.”


Roland Garros | Paolini much too strong for Andreeva in semi-final – final against Swiatek


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