Few things have been as certain as a Rafa Nadal triumph at the French Open over the last two decades but Iga Swiatek has emerged as a sure shot among women and is eyeing a fourth title in five years when she meets Jasmine Paolini in Saturday’s final.

Barring a blip in a blockbuster second-round clash against Naomi Osaka where she saved a match point to go through, Swiatek has crushed opponents with her all-court game and 12th seed Paolini will need something special to deny her.

Such has been Swiatek’s dominance on clay that the top seed from Poland has won her last 20 matches at Roland Garros, as she bids for a third successive trophy to add to her maiden Grand Slam triumph in Paris four years ago.

The Madrid and Rome champion can also extend her winning streak on the surface to 19 matches, with fans and analysts suggesting she is well on the way to becoming a claycourt great like 14-times French Open champion Nadal.

“We’ll see in 14 years if the journey is similar,” four-times Grand Slam champion Swiatek told reporters after thumping third seed Coco Gauff in the semi-finals on Thursday.

“That’s obviously really nice. I’d never expect anybody to compare me to Rafa because for me he’s above everybody, and he’s a total legend.

“We’ll see… but I’m proud of myself that I’m playing consistently here and that I’m mentioned in the same sentence as Rafa. That’s cool.”


Swiatek’s semi-final win put her in elite company as she became only the third player since 2000 to make three straight French Open finals after Justine Henin (2005-07) and Maria Sharapova (2012-14).

At 23, she is also the second-youngest player in the Open era to reach four title clashes, older only than German great Steffi Graf in 1990.

“After the tournament it usually hits me what I achieved, but during it, I feel like I just need to play another match,” said Swiatek.

“Sometimes, it’s hard not to see what’s at stake and what the atmosphere is around these matches. I’m not used to it. It’s not the routine. On the other hand, when I’m focused on work, I can make it a routine because that’s easier to do.”

Facing the tall task of toppling Swiatek at her favourite hunting ground is Paolini, the diminutive Italian with Polish roots who is in the midst of her most impressive season and eyeing a maiden Grand Slam trophy.

The tenacious 28-year-old has enjoyed a favourable draw in Paris but showed she could pack a punch when needed by stunning fourth seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals before beating 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva in the semi-finals.

“Iga is an unbelievable player. So young, but so many achievements and Grand Slams,” Dubai champion Paolini said.

“She’s doing well week by week and that’s not easy. So I have huge respect for her but my goal is to step onto the court on Saturday and try to enjoy the match, enjoy that moment and try to play a good match.”

With Jannik Sinner assured of the men’s top ranking next week, Paolini will look to add the icing on the cake in what has already been a hugely successful tournament for Italy.