World number one Iga Swiatek rallied from a set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 and reach her first U.S. Open final, where she will meet Ons Jabeur on Saturday for the trophy.
After a sluggish start, the Pole came alive in the second set and overcame an early break in the decider by winning the final four games to see off the powerful Belarusian.
“Against Aryna you have to have the energy to push her back and be able to play those fast balls,” Swiatek said in an on-court interview.
“In the first set I lacked a little bit of that so I needed to get it together. Drink some energy shots and just kind of go with it. I’m pretty glad that I did that.”
With the win Swiatek became the first Polish woman to ever reach the U.S. Open final where she will face Jabeur, who became the first African woman of the Open era to do the same earlier in the day.
Both Swiatek and Sabalenka came out tense under the lights on Thursday but the sixth seed settled in first, finding a service rhythm and dialing in her forehand against Swiatek, who has struggled at times in the past against big hitters.
Sabalenka consolidated a break with an ace for 4-2 and captured the first set when she snuck to the net behind a huge forehand and sent a volley past the charging Swiatek.
But Swiatek, who was forced to battle back from a set down in her fourth-round match against Jule Niemeier, raised her level in the second, serving much better and breaking Sabalenka three times to level the contest.
Sabalenka responded early in the third, her confidence growing when her blistering backhand knocked her opponent backwards and onto the court as she raced out to a 2-0 lead.
But the feisty Swiatek refused to give in, breaking back with a backhand winner to level at 4-4 and advanced to her first final in Flushing Meadows when Sabalenka’s backhand landed in the net.
The two-time French Open champion Swiatek will gun for her third Grand Slam title when she faces dynamic Tunisian Jabeur, who cruised to her semi-final with a straight sets win over Caroline Garcia.
Swiatek and Jabeur are 2-2 in their four career meetings.
“It’s always tough and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be physical,” Swiatek said of Jabeur.
“She has such good hands, she is solid on the baseline and when she’s going in so I have to be careful.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now, I’m just going to enjoy being in the final.”
Swiatek threw caution to the wind after tentative play left her down a set against Sabalenka
“I needed to go all in to change the momentum,” she told reporters.
“I felt a huge difference between the first set and the last two. I’m pretty happy that I got my level of energy up a little bit.”
Sabalenka said she could feel the difference on her side of the net too.
“She was playing aggressively, and I was trying to stay in the game, which was my mistake,” she said.
“I should just go for it.”
The 21-year-old Swiatek said learning to keep her composure even when her back is against the wall has been the most meaningful area of growth in her game.
“Earlier I felt like my emotions were taking over and I was panicking a little bit when I was losing,” she said.
“Right now it’s just easier for me to logically think what I can change. And I feel like I have more skills to do that and more than one type of way to play.
“I’m pretty happy that it changed because I think that’s basically the most important thing on the highest level.”
The two-time French Open champion said she is still learning to trust herself on the fast North American hard courts, where she struggled in tune-up events prior to coming to New York, after going on a 37-match winning streak earlier in the year.
“I trust myself for sure on clay, and maybe also other surfaces,” she said.
“Here I just try to accept maybe that sometimes I’m not going to trust myself, and I still need to prove myself in a couple of matches against heavy hitters.”
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