NEW YORK. After Ons Zhaber hit from the right out of bounds, Iga Swiatek immediately fell to the ground and covered her eyes with her hands. Polish flags flew around the Arthur Ashe Stadium and chants of “Yoke” were heard around the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Swiatek just won the US Open, her third major title of her career and second of the year with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Jaber, and in that moment proved she is now a long-awaited dominant force in women’s tennis.

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But even she seemed shocked when she received her trophy after the match — and not just because of the $2.6 million check she was presented with.

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“I’m really glad it’s not cash,” she joked.

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After proving that she is the best in the world on clay, questions remain about her game on hard court.

“I’m not expecting much, especially before this tournament, it’s been a tough time,” Swiatek said on the court, wearing a new Asics jacket with “1GA” written on it and three stars representing every big win. “Coming back after winning a Grand Slam is difficult, even if Roland Garros was second. [major title]I needed to stay calm and focus on my goals.

“It’s complicated. New York is noisy, it’s so crazy. There are so many temptations in the city, so many inspiring people I’ve met, I’m so proud of how I handled it mentally.”

While Serena Williams’ impending retirement made headlines during the first week of the tournament, Swiatek proved in an impressive fortnight that she was the clear heir to Williams’ former role as tour superstar. There have been others in recent years with consistent success, including Naomi Osaka, who has won four major hard court titles, and the recently retired Ashleigh Barty, who has won Grand Slams on all surfaces, but Swiatek’s time has come. She is a contender wherever she plays.

It was Swiatek’s seventh title of the season – the most by a woman on the tour since Williams in 2014 – and Swiatek became the first woman to win multiple majors in the same year since Angelique Kerber in 2016. , ranked #1 since April and now has double the points of Jaber, who will return to #2 on Monday.

Even a devastated Jaber, who fought back to achieve a second set tiebreaker after a lopsided first set that only lasted 29 minutes, admitted that the US Open title belonged to Swiatek after the match.

“I really tried, but Iga didn’t make it easy for me,” Jabeur said on the court. “She deserved today’s victory. I don’t really like her now, but it’s all right.”

The last two years have seen an incredible rise for the Polish star. Swiatek, a former junior champion, arrived at Roland Garros for the 2020 French Open, postponed due to the pandemic, finishing 54th in the world and attracting almost no attention. She left Paris a champion.

After the outstanding win, Swiatek was candid about her desire to be more consistent and acknowledged that many in the women’s game have struggled lately. She more than justified this hope. The 21-year-old has become the youngest three-time Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova in 2008.

In 2022 alone, she had an astounding 37-match winning streak and lost just one set during her title run at Roland Garros. In the final, she lost just four games to aspiring superstar Coco Gauff.

Swiatek has demonstrated throughout the summer that she is not as comfortable on hard court as she is on clay and has publicly expressed her displeasure with the balls used during the US Open last month, but she has found ways to win when it matters most. . She needed three sets in two matches, in the fourth round and the semi-finals on her way to the final. She later said that these trials gave her more confidence.

“It kind of gives you that little bit of confidence that you can handle any situation,” Swiatek said on Thursday. “Yeah, maybe just the confidence that next time you’ll know which skill to pick and which decision to make, sort of. This is the best experience you can have for the next matches.”

She had no confidence issues on Saturday. She was far from perfect – there were more unforced errors than winners, as there were in every match of the tournament – but she found a way to win even as Jabeur raised her level in the second set.

Off the court, Swiatek became one of the tour’s most outspoken leaders, as Williams had over the years. She has worn a Ukrainian flag ribbon on her hat since the beginning of the Russian invasion of the country and has organized several exhibitions to raise money for humanitarian aid and awareness, including during the “Tennis Plays for Peace” event ahead of the US Open. at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Although she is an introvert by nature, it seems that having an affair has encouraged Swiatek and given her the opportunity to play more than just herself.

Moments after Swiatek’s Saturday night win, she brought her trophy to the Sportzshala set near Arthur Ashe for a live interview. Thousands of fans gathered behind her, a sea of ​​red and white, chanting her name and phrases in Polish and applauding her every word. Swiatek said during an interview that her rise in the sport began during the pandemic, when there were few fans attending events. But she looked at home, completely at ease in a large crowd and in the spotlight.

When host Chris McKendry mentioned to Swiatek that she had never seen a crowd like the one that had gathered, with the possible exception of Rafael Nadal, Swiatek confidently interrupted and perhaps subconsciously shared where she also sees her current place in the sport.

“And for Serena.”