The victory of Poland’s Iga Swiatek over Sofia Kenin at the French Open marked the next generation’s complete dominance of the grand slams that commenced with Naomi Osaka’s victory over Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open. The torch has been seized from the old brigade and the completion took place in Paris, the city where dreams are fulfilled.
Williams came to Paris, a city after her heart, in the quest for a record-tying 24th major title that has eluded her in four finals. The 39–year-old had dominated the women’s game for two decades accumulating 23 major titles. Since her loss to Naomi Osaka in the 2018 U.S. Open, younger players have won five grand slam titles. Bianca Andreescu was 19 years old when she defeated Williams at the 2019 U.S. Open.
Venus Williams was the oldest player in the field. The seven-time grand slam titlist lost in the second round to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia, a portent of what unfolded in the fortnight.
At 40, how much longer would she remain on the circuit?
Other older players fell early in the draws. The second seeded Karolina Pliskova aged 28 was beaten by the 2017 titlist, 23-year-old Jelena Ostapenko. Victoria Azarenka, 31, lost to 26-year-old Schmiedlova. Elina Svitolina, 26, lost in the quarter-finals to 23-year-old Nadia Podoroska, Shuai Zhang, 31, lost in fourth round to Petra Kvitova, who was defeated by 22-year-old Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals.
Iga Swiatek’s 6/1, 6/2 upset of top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round placed her in the spotlight as a potential winner. That lop-sided result did not portray the brutal contest of many long rallies, most of which were won by the younger player. After Halep, none of her opponents in the next two rounds got more than four games. She took the title while dropping one game in the first set and four in the second.
The new queen joined retinue of champions of the younger generation. The new sports sensation in Poland summarized the herald of a new period: “I know that there are no limits. Even though you’re really young, and you’re an underdog, you can do a lot is a sport like tennis.”
Maybe it just had to be like that; for another underdog to win again in women’s tennis. It’s so often right now that it’s crazy.” She said it all.