The world’s No.1 tennis star adopted an ‘underdog’ mentality to fuel his run to the US Open final

  • Iga Swiatek is set to face world No. 5 Ons Jabeur in the women’s singles final of the 2022 US Open.
  • The world’s highest-ranked star adopted an underdog mentality to propel his championship run.

NEW YORK — Iga Swiatek is one win away from her second Grand Slam title of the year.

But somewhat ironically, the world’s top-ranked tennis star has adopted an underdog mentality to fuel his run to this year’s US Open final.

The 21-year-old Polish star has held the top spot in the WTA rankings since April 4, apparently making her the favorite to lift the trophy at Flushing Meadows some five months later. But Swiatek, who is known for her skill on clay and won her two previous Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros, struggled considerably heading into the final Grand Slam of the year.

Swiatek.Danielle Parhizkaran – USA TODAY Sports

His hard-court season consisted of back-to-back Round of 16 losses — first to Beatriz Haddad Maia in Toronto and, a few weeks later, to Madison Keys in Cincinnati, Ohio. Unsurprisingly, women’s tennis’ brightest star was not exuding confidence ahead of the US Open.

“Looking logically at the last tournaments, I just didn’t know if this one would be possible for me to be consistent and win so many matches in a row,” Swiatek told a press conference. “After the losses I suffered in Toronto and Cincinnati, I didn’t expect to play so well here.”

“It gave me a lot because I could go back to being an underdog again, maybe not completely, but don’t expect me to win everything right now,” she added.

The world's No.1 tennis star adopted an 'underdog' mentality to fuel his run to the US Open final
Swiatek.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Relieving the immense pressure that comes with his higher ranking has helped Swiatek find his place on the hard court at the right time. She came through her first three US Open matches in straight sets – even as she faced former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round.

And even as the competition grew fiercer as the field narrowed, Swiatek managed to keep his foot on the gas. She needed three sets to defeat Germany’s Jule Niemeier, then won her quarter-final match in a second-set tie-break against the eighth seed. American Jessica Pegula.

“I feel more confident with every game, but I always try not to have too high expectations because I know anything can happen,” Swiatek said after his fourth-round match. “I don’t want to think too much, you know? So I’m just focused on the next game. But during the game, I’m just focused on the next point.”

The world's No.1 tennis star adopted an 'underdog' mentality to fuel his run to the US Open final
Swiatek.Danielle Parhizkaran – USA TODAY Sports

She recovered from a slow first set against Aryna Sabalenka – who played some of her best tournament tennis at the start of the match – to win the semi-final in three sets. Now Swiatek is the first No.1-ranked player to reach the US Open final since Serena Williams achieved the feat in 2014.

But she always leans on the role of the dark horse.

“For sure not playing well before also relieved the pressure,” Swiatek said after his semi-final win. “I mean, it’s not like I intended to do that, but I’m pretty glad I converted him in a positive way.”

The world's No.1 tennis star adopted an 'underdog' mentality to fuel his run to the US Open final
Swiatek celebrates winning the US Open semi-final.REUTERS/Mike Segar

She will face world No. 5 Ons Jabeur for the 2022 US Open women’s singles title on Saturday afternoon at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Fans in the United States can catch all the action on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET.


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