Iga Swiatek is once again the Queen of Muds.
World No. 1 Poland Swiatek defeated Czech Karolina Mošová to win the French Open women’s singles tournament on Saturday.
Macová, whose smooth, athletic game has been one of the sport’s best-kept secrets for years, struggled with mistakes early on but found form and gave Swiatek the final touch of her life, forcing her to use every bit of an uncompromising clinical approach. It made her the best player in the world – and then some – for over a year.
Swiatek outlasted Muchova, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in a breathtaking, up-and-down battle that greeted the moment that was one of the sport’s greatest stages. When Muchova’s second serve fell into the net on Swiatek’s first match point, Swiatek dropped her racket and brought her hands to her eyes, as Muchova came around the net for a well-deserved congratulatory hug.
Soon there was the increasingly familiar sight of Swiatek appearing in the stands for a celebratory rally with her team and some soft words with sports psychologist Daria Abramović, who she began working with as a shaky teen and helped shape her into a steely champ.
Swiatek has been nearly unbeaten at Roland Garros since 2020. With Saturday’s victory, she captured her third French Open singles title in four years. Since 2019, her record in the tournament before the final is 28-2, which may not rival Rafael Nadal’s 112-3 record, but it does give her time. Swiatek just turned 22 last week and has given few hints that she’s going to slow down.
Other than the occasional battle with her psyche, she seems to get better every year, especially at the French Open, a tournament she loves more than any other.
For Muchova, the final capped a remarkable comeback a year ago, when she injured her ankle in her third-round singles match at Roland Garros and had to withdraw. The injury was the latest in a series of ailments that have long prevented her from realizing the potential that many coaches, players and experts have seen in the game for years.
This loss knocked her out of the top 200, forcing her to play a series of smaller tournaments to regain her spot. She entered this tournament ranked 43rd in the world, although few in tennis believe there are 42 women better than Macová.
But playing in a Grand Slam final for the first time is a challenge for any player, especially against the best in the world. Swiatek cruised through her first five matches at the tournament. She won four of her first six sets without conceding a match. Then she lost only seven matches in the next two matches.
Beatriz Haddad-Maia of Brazil made Swatek uncomfortable for a while in the semifinals, sending her across the court into a second-set tiebreaker, but she reached the final with every reason to believe she would lift the trophy at the end of the day.
That belief grew in the opening minutes of the match, as there was no place left for the fluidity and combination of power and finesse Muchova played on her best days. She sprayed the balls wide and long, hit easy shots into the middle of the net, and gave Swiatek plenty of free points.
There is no clock that regulates the length of a tennis match, but most of the sport is about time control, i.e. finding a way to make the opponent feel rushed, as if they have no chance of reaching the ball, while being spotted. How to give yourself all the time in the world. For over a year this has been Swiatek’s signature, and that’s exactly what it did for Muchova on Saturday.
There was a time two years ago when she was among the most creative players in the world. Her game featured a squat backhand and combination forehand with six different types of spin. There was art to it all, but it didn’t win over as much.
Now Swiatek isn’t building winning points so much as capturing them, going for the winners with a big, rolling forehand at the first opportunity. The shorter the point, the less thoughtful it is.
She never makes her way into a match. She seeks control from the very beginning. When one point ends, she struggles to start the next as if she’s rushing to catch a train, and zips through sets and matches as if she’s got tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.
In order for Muchova to have a chance, she needed to control the clock by racking up points and finding enough time to rest on the biggest stage of her career.
Swiatek took the first break of Mochova’s serve and took the lead after just seven minutes. Leading 6-2, 3-0 after an hour, while Muchova was still trying to find her footing.
Then I did. I did it, shot by shot, point by point, game by game. Strokes became crisp and precise, points extended, and she slid into her shots so gracefully in moments that seemed to dance. Her barrage stung as the packed crowd of more than 15,000 fans chanted her name, prodding her to the beat of the bass drum.
Swiatek swung by, and as the match went to the two-hour limit, all was equal. Two minutes later, Muchova broke Swiatek’s serve for the third time in a row and took her first lead of the day.
Muchova and Swiatek had not played a competitive match since 2019, before either of them established themselves at the top of the game. But they’ve rehearsed many times since then, and Swiatek was interested in Muchova’s talents.
“A great touch,” Swiatek said of her competition. “She can also speed up the game. She plays with that kind of freedom in her movements, I don’t know. And she has great technique.”
It was all there on Saturday on one of the sport’s biggest stages, in one of the four Grand Slam finals in recent memory. Swiatek, sprinting to a seemingly insurmountable lead, faltered as Muchova found her form, then fought off serve breakdowns twice in the decider and found the answers and shots she needed.
Swiatek has never lost a Grand Slam final and won all of those matches in straight sets. One of the few remaining questions was how it would respond if it was thrust into the crucible of group three with everything on the line.
At first, it didn’t look good. She double-faulted to give Muchova another break from serve to start the deciding set and appeared to be finished as Matchova jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Longtime tennis commentator Mary Carrillo likes to divide players into two groups — those with fangs and those who don’t, those who not only win from the front but relish the opportunity to scrimmage and fight until the final ball and those who pack it in.
Muchova showed her fangs in the semi-finals and in stepping up her comeback on Saturday. Now it’s Swiatek’s turn. She won 12 of her 14 points to regain the lead only to watch Muchova bite again, turning the third set into a roller coaster.
She darted forward behind deep balls that Swiatek was on the run and finished on the points with a touch, a blast, or a quick pass, grabbing her own serve and breaking Swiatek up for a 4-3 advantage. It lasted seven minutes, until a mistimed shot settled to the bottom of the net and Swiatek came back up and heard deafening chants of her name over the beat of the drum.
“That was so close but so far, but that’s what happens when you play one of the best,” Muchova said, holding the silver runner-up dish.
With Muchova serving to stay in the match, Swiatek aimed her return deadlift at Muchova’s feet and nailed her targets, putting Muchova on her heels and into a quick hole. The double match point arrived when Muchova hit a forehand wide. With a double fault by Muchova, Swiatek secured her crown, Queen of Clays for another year.
“Sorry it was so difficult,” she told her team during the award ceremony.
Four Grand Slam finals. Four championship cups. tops in the world. Swiatek doesn’t look that tough at all.