Minutes after suddenly becoming a Grand Slam champion at age 19, while ranked just 54th, Iga Swiatek held a microphone during the French Open trophy ceremony and was hesitant for pretty much the only time over the past two weeks.
“First of all, I’m not very good at speeches,” Swiatek began, haltingly, “so, sorry, because I won my last tournament like two years ago, and I really don’t know who to thank.”
When she’s got a racket in her hand, it’s a whole different story. With the poise of a veteran and the shots of a champion, Swiatek wrapped up a dominating run at Roland Garros, grabbing the last six games to beat Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday’s final.
‘I’m just overwhelmed’
“Two years ago, I won a junior Grand Slam, and right now I’m here. It feels like such a short time,” Swiatek said, her voice cracking. “I’m just overwhelmed.”
Swiatek (pronounced shvee-ON’-tek) is the first Polish tennis player to win a major singles trophy and said, “I know it’s pretty crazy back home” — where one newspaper’s front page was splashed with the headline “Poland Garros” ahead of the final.
WATCH | Swiatek claims French Open title against Kenin:
When she smacked one last forehand winner to the corner to end things, Swiatek placed her right hand over her mouth then crouched, shaking her head.
Hard to believe? Maybe. This was, after all, only her seventh major tournament; she’d never been past the fourth round at one.
But the way she played these two weeks — with powerful groundstrokes sent to corners, the occasional drop shot, terrific returning and impressive court coverage — made this outcome less of a surprise.
Swiatek lost only 28 games across seven matches and is the first woman to triumph in Paris without ceding a set since Justine Henin in 2007. She also is the first teen to win the women’s title there since Iva Majoli in 1997.
And Swiatek did it with victories over such opponents as 2018 champion Simona Halep and 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, both by scores of 6-1, 6-2.
So it made sense that Swiatek would be able to get past the fourth-seeded Kenin, even if the 21-year-old American was trying to claim her second major title of 2020 after winning the Australian Open.
“A great tournament,” Kenin told Swiatek. “A great match.”
Kenin was 16-1 in Grand Slam matches this year. But she dealt with a leg issue in the second set and showed frustration by kicking her red-white-and-blue racket after lost points.
And then there was this: She ran into the composed Swiatek, who only recently completed her high school studies and listens to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses before walking on court.
“I was just mentally consistent,” said Swiatek, who travels with a sports psychologist and meditates during changeovers, breathing slowly with her eyes closed. “I felt like today was really stressful for me, so it was kind of hard.”
This weekend is the culmination of an unusual two weeks, to say the least. The tournament was postponed form May-June to September-October because of the coronavirus pandemic; the recently rising number of COVID-19 cases in France led the government to limit the number of spectators allowed on the grounds to 1,000 each day.
Some top women, including 2019 champion Ash Barty and three-time major champ Naomi Osaka didn’t enter the event; 23-time Slam winner Serena Williams withdrew before the second round with an injury.
You never forget your first Grand Slam 🏆<a href=”https://twitter.com/iga_swiatek?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@iga_swiatek</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RolandGarros</a> <a href=”https://t.co/6jXR2JAqzn”>pic.twitter.com/6jXR2JAqzn</a>
The temperature was in the mid-50s (low teens Celsius), with a slight breeze, and the hundreds of fans scattered in Court Philippe Chatrier were mostly subdued — other than a group that would shout Swiatek’s first name, stretching it out over several seconds each time to sound like “Eeeeeeeeeee-gah.”
Swiatek began with a 3-0 run, taking 12 of the first 15 points, delivering four winners and zero unforced errors.
No one expected Kenin — self-described as “feisty” — to go quietly. She got on the board with a hold, then broke when Swiatek double-faulted, the first sign that the magnitude of the moment might be hitting her. Soon enough, it was 3-all.
But Swiatek is nothing if not resilient. She served for the set at 5-3, and got broken, but responded right away by stealing yet another one of Kenin’s service games.
Same thing happened to begin the second set: Kenin broke for a 1-0 edge, and Swiatek broke right back. She wouldn’t lose another game on her way to her first tour-level title.
Kenin takes medical timeout
At the changeover at 2-1, Kenin left the court for a medical timeout, then returned with her left thigh wrapped.
While Kenin was gone, Swiatek stayed warm by pulling on a white jacket and hitting some serves, earning applause from spectators.
When play resumed, Swiatek needed only 12 more minutes to wrap up the victory, finishing with a 25-10 edge in winners.
All that was left was to hear the Polish anthem — never before played after a major singles final — ring out in the stadium, check out her shiny trophy and go through the speeches and interviews.
After speaking for a bit, Swiatek asked, “Should I say something else?”
She was told by the emcee that she could if she wanted.
“I have no idea,” Swiatek said. “Sorry.”
Better practice up, Iga. The tennis world expects to see more such speeches in the future.
Mies, Krawietz win 2nd straight doubles title
Andreas Mies fell onto his back and Kevin Krawietz sank to his knees in celebration after they successfully defended their French Open doubles title on Saturday.
They beat U.S. Open champions Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-3, 7-5 in the final.
🏆 Doubling Up 🏆<br><br>Defending champions <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndreasMies?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AndreasMies</a> and <a href=”https://twitter.com/KrawietzKevin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@KrawietzKevin</a> win back to back <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RolandGarros?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RolandGarros</a> men’s doubles titles conquering Pavic/Soares 6-3 7-5. <a href=”https://t.co/BRzVOWWJuK”>pic.twitter.com/BRzVOWWJuK</a>
The eighth-seeded German pair won on their second match point when Soares scooped a forehand into the net on Court Philippe Chatrier.
After picking themselves up off the red clay of Roland Garros’ main court, they hugged at the net.
Krawietz’s forehand winner gave them a break of serve and a 6-5 lead against the No. 7 seeds.
With Mies serving for the match, the duo missed one match point, and then scrambled to save two break points — Krawietz fending off the first with an emphatic smash at the net.
They closed out the win on a chilly evening when Soares was at full stretch and could not get enough power on the ball to carry it over the net.
Celebrating with fans
Mies and Krawietz went to celebrate with a handful of fans, two of whom were wearing the white jerseys of Germany’s soccer team as they applauded loudly.
Other fans were getting ready to toast their win back in Germany.
“A lot of friends and family are sitting at home in front of the TV. They couldn’t come this year,” Krawietz said. “My uncle is grilling and drinking some beers at home. My girlfriend, I love you, and enjoy the party tonight guys.”
Soares praised the victors.
“Well done, amazing run. Enjoy the moment,” he said. “Hopefully we get a chance next year to go one better.”
Buehler’s remarkable start in Dodgers’ Game 3 win puts pressure on Rays – Sportsnet.ca
With the win, the Dodgers take a 2-1 lead in the World Series and shift the pressure squarely on the Rays’ shoulders heading into Game 4. But before we get there, let’s look back at some takeaways from a commanding Dodgers victory.
Buehler’s had a bit of a spotty post-season, battling his command at times and blisters at others. His results have been perfectly fine, with only four runs allowed over four outings. But anyone who’s been watching closely knows he hasn’t pitched as efficiently as he could’ve, walking 11 over those four starts and completing just four innings in two of them.
But you know Buehler’s on when he’s beating guys with high-90s fastballs:
Locating his curveball back door for strikes:
Walker Buehler, Nasty 82mph Back Door Curveball. pic.twitter.com/cISkcmYHCq
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 24, 2020
And getting awkward, off-balance swings like this:
Walker F’n Buehler, Filthy 83mph Curveball.
10th K. pic.twitter.com/Dwd7Ik6PXt
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 24, 2020
We could really just display nothing but Buehler GIFs here, because the Dodgers right-hander was featuring truly devastating stuff Friday. He was flawless through his first two innings, going six up, six down on only 22 pitches while striking out four. He walked Kevin Kiermaier in the third, but quickly erased him with a double play, ensuring he’d face the minimum entering the fourth.
It was right back to automatic outs from there, as Buehler retired his next four consecutively to carry him through one out in the fifth. That’s when he faced trouble for the first time, as Manuel Margot shot a well-located, full-count fastball into left for a double, the first hit Buehler allowed on the night.
Buehler rallied to strike out Joey Wendle with a nasty curveball at the end of a long battle, but then he made one of his few mistakes on the night, leaving an 0-2 slider a little too far up to Willy Adames, who put the Rays on the board:
But that was all they’d get off him as Buehler completed six innings, allowing only that run on three hits and walk, striking out 10. He threw 67 of his 93 pitches for strikes, a ridiculous 18 of them swinging. His pitch chart demonstrates how effective Buehler’s stuff can allow him to be with a relatively simple game plan featuring fastballs up, curveballs to either side of the plate and sliders either down-and-away from righties or at the back feet of lefties:
That’s about as good as it gets and when you have a bullpen like the Dodgers do, six innings on 93 pitches is all you need. Buehler’s now lined up to start a potential Game 7 of this series on Wednesday, and the Dodgers have to feel pretty good about that should the situation materialize.
An unlikely outcome
Friday, the Rays turned to Charlie Morton, a veteran stater who’s defied the traditional athlete’s trajectory and gotten better with age. Since 2017 — his age-33 season — Morton has a 3.94 ERA over 97 starts with strong peripherals of 10.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9.
But the 37-year-old has done his best work in the post-season, pitching to a 2.81 ERA over 11 playoff outings in that span. He’s shoved in must-win games, he’s closed out a World Series clincher and he’s excelled in Game 7s, like last week in the ALCS against the Houston Astros.
Which is just one of the things that made his struggles Friday so curious. The other is how the trouble came out of nowhere. After two swift outs in the first, Morton quickly got ahead of Justin Turner, 1-2. But then he left a fastball up, right over the heart of the plate. And bad things tend to happen when you do that:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 24, 2020
In the third, Morton again got two quick outs, both via strikeout on only nine pitches. But then he clipped Corey Seager’s foot with a splitter and got burned by Turner with two strikes again, as the Dodgers third baseman lifted a Morton curveball on the plate into left for a double, putting two runners in scoring position.
Max Muncy was next. Morton got to two strikes again. And another pitch was left over the plate:
This is extremely unusual. In two-strike counts this season, Morton held hitters to a .170/.207/.284 line. He gave up only six extra-base hits in 92 plate appearances that went to two strikes. Of the 53 batters he faced with two out in an inning, only three came away with extra-base hits. Friday night he was tagged for two through three innings.
But credit Dodgers hitters for a typically elite approach. Morton’s as good as he is because he doesn’t leave many pitches in hittable locations — especially when he’s ahead in the count. When he makes his rare mistakes, it’s imperative that you capitalize on them. And the Dodgers did just that.
While the early damage was done with two-strikes, the Dodgers weren’t waiting around against Morton in the fourth. Cody Bellinger led off with a line-drive single to right that beat the four-man outfield the Rays deployed against him. And after Chris Taylor struck out on three pitches, Joc Pederson sent a first-pitch curveball up the line, pushing Bellinger to third and putting the Dodgers back in business.
No. 9 hitter Austin Barnes was next, in the lineup not because his OPS is off the charts but due to his rapport with Buehler. You won’t see the Dodgers sacrifice bunt often. But with Barnes at the plate, it made plenty of sense:
AUSTIN BARNES BUNT!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 24, 2020
After all, the Dodgers had baseball’s second-best player coming up next in Mookie Betts. And he became the latest hitter to get to Morton with two strikes, rifling a full-count sinker back up the middle to cash another.
Morton’s five runs allowed were one more than he’d given up in his last five playoff starts combined. The seven hits he surrendered were tied for his most in a game since August 10, 2019 — a span of 22 outings. This isn’t how it’s usually gone. And if this series goes seven, the Rays will have to hope Friday was merely a glitch in Morton’s matrix.
Managing for tomorrow
Despite Morton’s struggles, Rays manager Kevin Cash needed as much length from his starter as possible with a bullpen day on tap Saturday. So he sent him back out for the fifth with five runs already in. But after Morton issued Muncy a one-out walk, Cash had seen enough.
From there, it was crucial that Cash got efficient, effective relief. You never know how many arms you’ll need on a bullpen day and it’s possible Sunday’s Game 5 could be an elimination game. The Rays needed to preserve as many bullets as possible.
John Curtiss was first out of the bullpen and did a serous solid for his manager, getting the Rays out of the fifth with only eight pitches. And he started the sixth similarly, retiring the first two batters on seven. But then he hung an 0-2 slider to Barnes, who doesn’t hit many homers but wasn’t missing that cookie:
Austin Barnes goes yard to make it 6-1 for the @Dodgers!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 24, 2020
As an aside: it really is unfair that a lineup as deep as the Dodgers gets a bomb like that from Barnes out of the nine-hole. He has three home runs in 348 MLB games. He entered the night a .194/.262/.247 career playoff hitter with exactly one home run in 103 post-season plate appearances. He’s in the game for his defence. But the Dodgers continue to be a cheat code.
Anyway, Curtiss then turned things over to Ryan Sherriff, who had yet to pitch in the post-season. And Sherriff gave way to Ryan Thompson, who hadn’t pitched since Game 3 of the ALCS. Thompson then passed the baton to Shane McClanahan, who made his MLB debut two-and-a-half weeks ago and has pitched only three times in these playoffs.
That usage tells you all you need to know about how Cash was managing the end of this one. It had more to do with tomorrow than today. The gambit he ran was that it’d be better to have a full stable of high leverage arms in Games 4 and 5 rather than marginally increasing his team’s dwindling odds of a comeback in Game 3.
Cash got what he was after. And now the pressure’s on him and his pitching staff in Saturday’s Game 4, as the Rays try to navigate their way through 27 outs in a series of short stints, while producing enough offence to avoid a 3-1 deficit.
Odds and ends
Randy Arozarena made history in the ninth with a solo shot off Kenley Jansen, tying an MLB record for the most homers — eight — in a single post-season:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 24, 2020
Justin Turner made a ridiculous snag on a Mike Zunino grounder in the third, starting an inning-ending double play. It was impressive enough at full speed, but the super slow-motion replay demonstrates just how tricky the ball was to track:
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 24, 2020
Ji-Man Choi’s six-foot-one, 260-pounds and can do the splits. What’s your excuse?
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