Tennis

Iga Swiatek or Ons Jabeur: Who will win the 2022 US Open title?

On Saturday, No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek of Poland will take on No. 5 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. If Jabeur wins, she will become the first African woman in the Open era to earn a Grand Slam singles title. If Swiatek prevails, it will be her third major title, after winning two French Open crowns, in 2020 and earlier this year. So … who will win? We asked our experts:

What can Jabeur do to defeat Swiatek?

Alexandra Stevenson: Jabeur can do whatever she wants. Her slice game — the extraordinary array of tennis acumen that she shows with her strokes — will decide if she can win tomorrow. Or will the athletic game of Swiatek ultimately take down the slice and dice of Jabeur? Jabeur has been winning with low service percentage. This is a testament to the open door in women’s tennis today.

Cliff Drysdale: Jabeur needs to get a very high percentage of first serves in to avoid having her second serve decimated. She also needs to use her drop shots and imaginative game so Swiatek cannot find rhythm.

Luke Jensen: Jabeur can be a tremendous disruptor! The multi-layered tactical approach to throw many various spins, paces and the Jabeur signature drop-shots will help her play the match Swiatek does not want to play.

Tom Hamilton: If Jabeur is to win this, she needs to do it in straight sets. Twice Swiatek has gone a set down at this year’s US Open, and twice she’s pulled it back to win in three. She’s the master of endurance tennis. So Jabeur needs to put her foot on the accelerator from the get-go — targeting Swiatek with her pinpoint serve (she has 34 aces to date, just four short of tournament-leader Qinwen Zheng who’s clocked up 38, and has also won 73% of points on her first serve when it lands correctly) and not giving her a moment to think or fight back. This will have to be done quickly. Jabeur would have learned from that painful Wimbledon final, where she sprinted into a 6-3 lead, only to lose in three.

D’Arcy Maine: Jabeur has been candid about how much she wanted to win the title at Wimbledon, and now, having been so close to a major title before, she has a much better understanding of what she needs to do and what to expect in a Grand Slam final. After her win on Thursday, she said she needs to keep her emotions in check and stick to the game plan her coach sets out for her. If she can do that, and continue the absolute serving clinic she put on against Caroline Garcia (she had eight aces and didn’t face a single break point), a victory will be well within her reach.

Aishwarya Kumar: Swiatek has had slow starts throughout this tournament, losing her serve early on (and on two occasions losing the first set). She has lost 16 service games in the last three rounds, depending on her return skills to claw her way back into winning the matches.

Jabeur should capitalize on her shaky start, pushing her up and down the court with her slices, her drop shots and her precise angles. Then, once she gets a set up, Jabeur should maintain the pressure early on in the second set, getting free points on her first serve (she landed 34 aces in this tournament) and not allowing Swiatek a chance to break. Swiatek has worked her way out of really difficult situations in the past few rounds, including coming back from a 2-4 break in the third set against Sabalenka, so it would be vital for Jabeur to serve really well against the world No. 1.

What can Swiatek do to defeat Jabeur?

Stevenson: Swiatek has fought hard to be in the finals. She may be No. 1 — but here at the US Open, she has had to adjust her forehand to get used to the speed of the court with her far-Western grip, and the lighter women’s regular-duty balls. She’s battled well and found the moments to get herself in the finals.

Drysdale: Swiatek needs to wait for chances to hit ground-stroke winners. She has been making more errors than usual by hurrying.

Jensen: Expect the unexpected. The ability to be laser-focused on identifying the various change-ups Jabeur will throw at her will be key.

Maine: It’s been an interesting run for Swiatek. Unlike on clay, her preferred and most dominant surface, there have been moments of struggle on the hardcourt in New York, and she has had more unforced errors than winners in every single match she’s played.

But, despite this, what’s been particularly impressive about Swiatek is her mental resolve and her ability to make mid-match adjustments. She doesn’t get overly fazed, even when dropping a set, and that has given her increasing confidence throughout the tournament. This mental strength might end up being her greatest asset against Jabeur’s variety-filled game. She will need to keep finding answers, and rely on her strong returning ability against Jabeur’s powerful serve, if she wants to win her third major title on Saturday.

Hamilton: Thankfully Swiatek’s serve returns have been outstanding, and she needs to get hold of Jabeur’s serve early on. If she can counter Jabeur’s serve from the outset, and hold her own, then she’ll make Jabeur uncomfortable.

She can also draw on the experience of winning two Grand Slams, including the French Open this year. That experience in an environment like this is invaluable, but she also needs to achieve that perfect balance of trusting her own ability, but also questioning herself enough to motivate herself to fight harder.

“Maybe I’m the kind of person who is never going to trust myself. I don’t care,” Swiatek said earlier this week. “It’s not like it’s something negative for me. For sure, having doubts is not nice, but I also find it pretty motivating to actually, you know, try to get better and try to find new skills to get as close to the trust as possible.”

Kumar: Swiatek needs to start strong. She can’t afford to lose service games early on — Jabeur is very good at capitalizing on that kind of sloppy game play. Swiatek needs to serve really well early on in the game. Then, she needs to do what she does best: return well.

Swiatek broke serve in 35 out of the 50 games she played in New York, which is a 58 percent average. It’s what she excels at. In their last meeting in Rome, she broke Jabeur’s serve five times to win the match in straight sets (6-2 6-2). Jabeur has since improved her service game, so it won’t be that easy, but she is an incredible returner, so she really needs to push Jabeur during her service games.

Who do you think will win?

Stevenson: For me, Jabeur wins. Her low slice skips off the lightning fast court. If she does this, she will upset the rhythm of Swiatek.

Drysdale: Swiatek should win. Her confidence level is rising and she escaped a trap against Sabalenka, giving her a second chance.

Jensen: Jabeur is my pick. Swiatek plays very uptight, especially in a pressure-packed match like a major final. Jabeur seems to have learned a great deal from the Wimbledon final in terms of handling the big moment. I know Swiatek has won two majors, but she doesn’t like the balls and can get negative if things are not going well.

Hamilton: I think Swiatek will come through to win her second Slam this year. Her record in finals is ridiculous, and if she can tap into that level she achieved to win 37 straight matches earlier in the year, then it’s going to take one monumental effort to topple her. Jabeur obviously has it in her to win on Saturday, but I think Swiatek’s experience will come through and she’ll win in straight sets. Swiatek also doesn’t lose in finals — winning her last 9.

Maine: Jabeur. She has been a woman on a mission throughout the fortnight in New York and has been almost clinical en route to the final. Having already played in a Grand Slam final, she knows what emotions she will feel, and, more important, how to handle those feelings. Jabeur beat Swiatek in straight sets during their last meeting on the hardcourt, in Cincinnati in 2021, and is currently brimming with confidence after a statement win over Garcia. It just feels as if momentum is on her side and this is Jabeur’s title to win.

Kumar: I said this at the start of the tournament and I will stick with it now: Ons Jabeur. The Jabeur vs. Swiatek rivalry is going to keep us entertained for years to come, so it’s not going to be an easy one for Jabeur (their head-to-head is 2:2). But, she’s having a hot-streak right now, making it to back-to-back Grand Slam finals, and if there’s anybody who can stop Swiatek, it’s Jabeur. The slice, the on-point first serves and the efficient way in which she adapts in tricky situations (coming back from a set down with America’s Shelby Rogers) is going to help her get to that first major trophy come Sunday.

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