THE French Open will have a new women’s champion after American Sofia Kenin faces Polish teenager Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s final in Paris.
Fourth seed Kenin, 21, is favourite having already won the Australian Open this year for her maiden Grand Slam.
“I want to make the next step. I would love to take the title,” she said.
World number 54 Swiatek, the lowest-ranked woman finalist in 43 years, said: “I never would’ve thought I’m going to be in the final. It’s crazy.”
‘Swiatek has been making progress for many years’
It has been an astonishing run for the 19-year-old, who has yet to drop a set and defeated top seed Simona Halep en route to her maiden Grand Slam final.
The promise was there as a junior, culminating in winning her one and only Grand Slam juniors title, at Wimbledon in 2018.
The transition to the senior ranks has been quite smooth. In 2019 she reached her first WTA Tour final, in Lugano, when she finished runner-up to Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
The year also saw her make the main draw in each of the majors, which included a run to the fourth round at Roland Garros where she lost to 2018 champion Halep.
Swiatek did not come into this year’s tournament in form that would a indicate a long run, but her success has not surprised her coach Piotr Sierzputowski.
He said: “It’s not like she got to where she is by chance.
“She may be 19, but she has been working on this for a very long time quite rigorously and she been making stable progress for many years.”
Earlier in the tournament, Swiatek also highlighted the importance of her sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz when it came to controlling her nerves.
After her semi-final win over Nadia Podoroska, the Pole said: “I’m dealing with my nerves pretty good. I feel like I’ve been so efficient and so focused for whole matches that I put a lot of pressure on my opponents.
“I’m not even nervous in second sets because I know it’s going to probably go my way.
She added: “On one hand I know that I can play great tennis. On the other hand, it’s kind of surprising for me. I just kept believing in myself. It’s like a dream come true.”
‘I have to figure out what she does’
Swiatek has only played Kenin once before, at the French Open juniors tournament in 2016, when the Pole came out on top.
The American said: “I remember I lost. I don’t remember how I played.
“Of course, we’re both different players now. I have to figure out what she does. She’s had a great two weeks here. She’s had some great results, playing some really good tennis.”
The Moscow-born American began the year in emphatic fashion with victory over Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final. But her run at Roland Garros has been somewhat of a surprise, having suffered defeat in her one and only warm-up match on clay prior to this tournament, losing to Victoria Azarenka in Rome.
However, Kenin’s impressive semi-final victory over Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova clearly highlighted that she was now at home on the surface.
Kenin added: “I did not have the best result and I could feel clay was not there for me.
“But I knew that it just takes a few matches to get a nice groove in. I know how to adjust to the surface. So I’m loving the clay.”
– Oct. 10, 2020 @ 09:55 GMT /