Iga Swiatek, the world’s top player, overcame a set deficit to defeat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 6-1 6-4 and go to her maiden US Open championship game against Ons Jabeur on Saturday.
After a slow start, the Pole picked up the pace in the second set and, in the decider, overcame an early break by winning the last four games to defeat the strong Belarusian.
In an on-court interview, Swiatek remarked, “Against Aryna you have to have the stamina to push her back and be able to play those rapid balls.”
“In the first set, I lacked a little bit of it, so I needed to pull it together. I’m pleased that I accomplished that. I drank some energy shots and just sort of went with it.”
Swiatek’s victory made her the first Polish woman to ever enter the United States. She will compete in the Open final against Jabeur, the first African woman to make history in the Open period earlier in the day.
On Thursday night, Swiatek and Sabalenka both started out anxious in front of the lights, but the sixth seed eventually relaxed in, establishing a service rhythm and dialling in her forehand against Swiatek, who has sometimes had trouble against powerful hitters.
Sabalenka won the opening set by sneaking to the net behind a big forehand, sending a volley past the charging Swiatek, and consolidating a break with an ace for 4-2.
But Swiatek improved her game in the second set, serving much better and breaking Sabalenka three times to tie the match. Swiatek had to rally from a set down in her fourth-round encounter against Jule Niemeier.
Early in the third, Sabalenka reacted, her self-assurance rising as she sprinted to a 2-0 lead with a ferocious backhand that sent her opponent flying backward and onto the ground.
Sabalenka’s backhand dropped in the net, but the tenacious Swiatek wouldn’t back down. She broke back with a backhand winner to tie the match at 4-4 and moved on to her maiden final at Flushing Meadows.
Swiatek, who has won the French Open twice, will attempt to capture her third Grand Slam championship when she competes against the vivacious Tunisian Jabeur, who advanced to the semifinals by defeating Caroline Garcia in straight sets.
In their four encounters in the past, Swiatek and Jabeur had a 2-2 record.
Swiatek described Jabeur as “usually challenging and I’m very confident it’s going to be physical.”
“She has such wonderful hands; I have to be cautious. She is stable on the baseline and when she is moving in.
“I have no idea what will happen. I’m going to bask in the moment of being in the championship now.