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POLAND GARROS: QUEEN OF CLAY ETCHES HERSELF IN HISTORY


Iga Swiatek cemented her status as the queen of clay to become the first woman ever to win four Roland Garros titles before turning 24 against Cinderella story Jasmine Paolini. Despite fears that the final could be one of the most lopsided in Grand Slam history, Paolini went toe-to-toe from the baseline and earned a shock 2-1 lead with a break. From there it was all one-way traffic as Swiatek created outrageous angles and turned defence into offence, taking the next five games with relative comfort to wrap up the opening set in style. The Italian 12th seed produced some highlight reels of her own by attempting to beat Swiatek at her own game, but consistency was always going to be a monumental challenge. In a blink of an eye, the world No.1 found herself 5-0 to the good in the second set, ultimately closing it out 6-2, 6-1 in 68 minutes as she dropped to her knees in relief. Adding a fifth Grand Slam title to her name, the world No.1 becomes the third woman in the Open era to claim three consecutive French Open crowns along with Monica Seles (1990-1992) and Justine Henin (2005-2007). Even in moments of difficulty and stress, Paolini found time to show an infectious smile throughout the match, admitting she is “very proud” of her last two weeks in Paris - guaranteed seventh spot in tomorrow’s official rankings. Her tournament isn’t over yet - still a chance to take home a major trophy in the women’s doubles with good friend and Italian compatriot Sara Errani against Coco Gauff and Kateřina Siniaková tonight. The goal now for Swiatek is to prove her capabilities on all surfaces and create a memorable legacy, starting with Wimbledon next month. Men’s Final Preview: Two years after being wheeled off in a wheelchair on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the semi-finals, Alexander Zverev will return to the same arena in a bid to achieve his first Grand Slam title. Having now appeared at least the past four times at the last four stage in Paris, Zverev joins Alcaraz in getting ready for their first-ever Roland Garros final. The German world No.4 edges the head-to-head 5-4, most notably springing an upset at this year’s Australian Open quarter-finals in four sets as well as the 2022 French Open. Doubts were raised about how deep Alcaraz could progress with little preparation due to a forearm injury, but the 21-year-old has transitioned seamlessly on clay and made a statement against Jannik Sinner in a five-set marathon despite signs of cramps. At the same time, Zverev has endured an emotionally draining first-round encounter against Nadal, while grinding out two tough five-set victories including a 1-4 double-break deficit in the decider against Tallon Griekspoor. Could it be a case of survival of the fittest? Service games may well hold the key to this match, with Zverev averaging a win percentage of 75.5 on first serve throughout the tournament including 86.6 percent against Casper Ruud in the semis - able to navigate his way out of trouble. If Zverev can keep the pressure on Alcaraz and stay composed, this could be closer than what people predict. At the same time, the variety of shot selection and court coverage from the Spaniard has all the ingredients for an all-time classic in the French capital. Zverev admitted in the past that he “wasn’t ready” to win a Grand Slam when he lost a two-set lead at the 2020 US Open final. Nearly four years on, is he finally ready?

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