It’s rare that the No. 1 player in the world flies under the radar.
Yet, in a weird way, that is exactly what happened to Iga Swiatek at the start of the U.S. Open. With all the media and public focus on Serena Williams and her likely retirement, Swiatek didn’t feel the kind of pressure that a top-ranked player usually feels coming into a Grand Slam.
“I was actually thinking about that every time I basically watched Serena,” said Swiatek, who will play Ons Jabeur Saturday in the U.S. Open women’s final. “It’s hard for me to compare, but yeah, maybe it took a little pressure off of me. But for sure not playing well before also took some pressure of me.”
The 21-year-old Pole will be going for her third Grand Slam title, having won the French Open in 2020 and 2022. Swiatek had a 37-match winning streak going this year that included her French Open win over Coco Gauff.
Swiatek, however, went through a rough stretch after the French Open, losing in the third round of Wimbledon and failing to get past the round of 16 in the two tournaments heading into the U.S. Open.
Jabeur, a 28-year-old Tunisian, showed that she is a player to be reckoned with when she reached her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon. She is hoping she learned something from the pressure of playing in that final, which she lost to Elena Rybakina, 6-2, 6-2.
"It feels more real [this time], to be honest with you," she said after her 6-1, 6-3 semifinal win over Carline Garcia Thursday. "At Wimbledon I was kind of just living the dream, and I couldn't believe it.
"I'm just happy about the fact that I backed up the results in Wimbledon and people are not really surprised I'm in the finals… now maybe I'll know what to do in the final."
It will be the fifth time that the two players have met. Their head-to-head record is 2-2 with Swiatek winning their last match, 6-2, 6-2, in the final in Rome in May.