World No.1 Iga Swiatek had to pull off multiple comebacks Thursday night before making the US Open final for the first time in her career.
Swiatek fought back from a one-set deficit, as well as from a break down in the third set twice, before edging No.6 seed Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a 2-hour, 11-minute semifinal showdown on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"I felt a huge difference between the first set and the last two," Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. "I'm pretty happy that I got my level of energy up a little bit.
"Aryna made it difficult today, for sure. I felt like she was serving pretty solid. It was hard to come back in the third, but I'm pretty happy that I did."
Swiatek, who had never made a US Open quarterfinal before this season, is now into her third career Grand Slam final, her second of the year and first off the red clay of Roland Garros. Swiatek is 2-0 in Grand Slam finals in her career. She won in Paris in 2020 and earlier this year.
Can. Not. Wait. 😻— wta (@WTA) September 9, 2022
Ons vs Iga for the title 🏆#USOpen pic.twitter.com/kKr2Rt07o4
It's Iga vs. Ons: Swiatek will now meet No.5 seed Ons Jabeur in Saturday’s women’s singles final after Jabeur breezed past No.17 seed Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 in the night’s first semifinal. Swiatek and Jabeur are No.1 and No.2 in match-wins this season.
The head-to-head between Swiatek and Jabeur is deadlocked at two wins apiece, and they are 1-1 on hard courts. In their only meeting this season, Swiatek prevailed in the Rome final on clay 6-2, 6-2.
"[Jabeur] has a different game style than most of the players," Swiatek said. "She has a great touch. All these things mixed up, yeah, she's just a tough opponent."
IGA >>>>>>>>>>> FINAL 🔥@iga_swiatek defeats Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach her first final in the Big Apple!#USOpen pic.twitter.com/P35xs1EXba— wta (@WTA) September 9, 2022
Preserving the lead: On Thursday night, Swiatek fought hard to maintain the lead she currently holds in her rivalry with Sabalenka. Sabalenka won their first meeting at last year’s WTA Finals, but Swiatek has now won all four of their matches this season.
Their previous meetings this year had all been routine straight-set wins for Swiatek, but this one went down to the wire. Sabalenka led by 2-0 and 4-2 in the third set, but Swiatek took the last four games of the match.
"I feel like Aryna served pretty well today, better than on our other matches," Swiatek said. "[Losing the first two games of the third set] kind of helped me to get back on ground and realize I still have a lot of expectations even though the second set was pretty dominant.
"I just went all in, you know. This time it actually gave me a lot, and the balls that I played went in. I'm pretty happy because I feel like we were both kind of sometimes risking, because the pace was really, really high."
For Sabalenka, it marks her third narrow loss in a Grand Slam semifinal. Sabalenka fell in the same round at 2021 Wimbledon and the 2021 US Open -- and she lost each of those matches 6-4 in the third.
World No. 1 @iga_swiatek is into the #USOpen final! pic.twitter.com/DuTcAAi3zU— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2022
Match moments: Sabalenka took a critical lead in the opener by converting her fourth break point of the 2-2 game with an error-forcing forehand. A sturdy volley gave Sabalenka a second break and the one-set advantage.
However, Swiatek brought her power plays to the fore in the second set, breaking Sabalenka at love in the opening game. Backing her big shots up with improved defense, Swiatek rolled through that set to level the match.
After an early exchange of breaks in the third set, a volley winner gave Sabalenka a key break for 3-2, and after consolidating, she was two games away from her first major final. But Swiatek bided her time and broke back at love for 4-4, wrapping up that game with a backhand crosscourt winner.
At 5-4, a resurgent Swiatek finished off a rally with a winning overhead to reach 0-40 and triple-match point. A forehand winner by Sabalenka saved the first, but on the second, Sabalenka’s backhand found the net.
Swiatek finished the match with two more winners and 12 fewer unforced errors than Sabalenka. The top seed saved her top tennis for the latter stages of the match.