French Open: Swiatek, Paolini set up final showdown

TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-2024
Italy's Jasmine Paolini celebrates after winning her women's singles semifinal match against Russia's Mirra Andreeva on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day twelve of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 6, 2024. Photo: AFP/ Alain Jocard

Paris: Iga Swiatek moved closer to a third successive French Open title by dismantling American third seed Coco Gauff on Thursday and she will play Jasmine Paolini in the final after the Italian downed Mirra Andreeva.

Four-times Grand Slam champion Swiatek's 6-2 6-4 semi-final win was her 11th victory in 12 meetings with Gauff, but the 23-year-old Pole had to endure tough moments in the second set before matching her longest winning streak on clay. "I was pretty intense and putting pressure on Coco," Swiatek told reporters. "Most of the things overall in my game worked today, so I'm proud of myself."

Paolini joined her in the final by defeating Russian 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva 6-3 6-1 to continue Italy's golden Roland Garros, with Jannik Sinner also through to the men's semifinals.

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Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates after winning against US Coco Gauff at the end of their women's singles semifinal match at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 6, 2024. Photo: AFP/ Emmanuel Dunand

Gauff will rise to number two in the rankings behind Swiatek but the loss to the Pole, who also beat her in the 2022 final and last year's quarters, was a bitter pill to swallow for the 20-year-old. "I think she's progressing a lot," Swiatek said of the U.S. Open champion. "Last year's U.S. Open showed she's tough. At this age, it's obvious she's going to just grow. It's nice to see her handling everything well around her, because it's not easy. "I'm sure we'll have plenty more intense matches at the highest level."

FIRST BLOOD
Swiatek broke in the opening game after a forehand error by the ultra aggressive Gauff and she fought off break points in her next two service games before tightening her grip.

Having dropped the first set, Gauff wiped away tears while leading 2-1 in the second after an argument with the umpire over a line decision, but the American recovered to break her opponent for the first time. "I think it was just overwhelming," Gauff said.

"I'm losing the match. When you're playing against her... every point matters against anybody, but especially against her. I think it was just one of those moments, but I overcame it."

Swiatek struck back immediately before breaking to surge to a 4-3 lead with a powerful winner as a 20th straight victory at Roland Garros came into view for the 23-year-old. Soaking up the applause on a sun-drenched Court Philippe-Chatrier, Swiatek secured victory on serve and matched her 18-match winning streak on the sport's slowest surface in 2022.

Swiatek, who saved a match point to beat former world number one Naomi Osaka in the second round, has lost only 14 games since and will be the favourite to win the title.

Paolini's belief has grown at Roland Garros and the 28-year-old became the first Italian to reach the final on Parisian clay since doubles partner Sara Errani in 2012.

The Dubai champion used her booming forehand to devastating effect and faces the ultimate challenge in Swiatek for a shot at her maiden Grand Slam title. Andreeva, who beat Paolini in their last meeting in Madrid, failed to make the most of the few opportunities she had and was plagued by errors in her first Grand Slam semi-final.

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