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Iga Swiatek defeats Coco Gauff at the French Open and will face Jasmine Paolini in the final

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PARIS (AP) — Iga Swiatek is as good as it gets in tennis at the moment, especially at the French Open. Been that way for quite some time. So her unyielding success against Coco Gauff just about everywhere — and certainly at Roland Garros — should come as no surprise by now.

Swiatek continued her mastery over Gauff and extended her winning streak in Paris to 20 matches with a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the semifinals on Thursday.

“For sure, it was intense,” said the No. 1-ranked Swiatek, who claimed five of the last six games after trailing 3-1 in the second set. “I’m happy that I just was consistent with my tactics and didn’t overthink stuff and just went for it at the end.”

In Saturday’s title match, Swiatek will face No. 12 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, a 6-3, 6-1 winner against unseeded 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia in the second semifinal.

Swiatek, who turned 23 last week, is trying to earn her fourth championship in five years at the French Open and can become the first woman with three in a row since Justine Henin from 2005-07. For Paolini, this will be her first Grand Slam final; she never even had made it past the second round in any of her initial 16 appearances at majors until getting to the fourth round at the Australian Open in January.

Swiatek improved to 11-1 overall against No. 3 seed Gauff, the reigning U.S. Open champion. That is more victories than Swiatek has accumulated against any other player — and includes head-to-head wins at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament three years in a row, including in the 2022 final and last year’s quarterfinals.

“She’s a tough matchup for me, obviously,” Gauff said.

Swiatek, who is 4-0 in major finals, has been at her dominant best for most of the past month, following up on titles at clay events in Rome and Madrid.

Putting aside a three-set, second-round victory over four-time major champion Naomi Osaka, when she was forced to save a match point, Swiatek has ceded a total of merely 17 games in her other five matches in Paris.

Displaying her usual brand of powerful-but-clean groundstrokes, Swiatek needed only 10 winners to advance on Thursday, because she made only 14 unforced errors — while Gauff finished with 39.

“For the most part, I do think I had the right idea,” Gauff said, “but I think I just made too many errors.”

This is what Swiatek does to whoever is across the net, particularly on clay: With defense and precision, she makes them hit so many shots that eventually the mistakes are bound to come.

There was a similar dynamic in the other semifinal. The key statistics were these: Paolini saved all six break points she faced, and she made just 10 unforced errors to Andreeva’s 29.

Now Paolini goes from taking on a teen appearing in her fifth major tournament to someone seeking her fifth major title.

“I have huge respect for (Swiatek), but … my goal is to step on court Saturday and try to enjoy the match and to enjoy that moment,” Paolini said, “and to try to play a good match and to make a good performance on court.”

It did not take long for Swiatek to assert herself on a sunny afternoon in Court Philippe Chatrier, where several spectators waved red-and-white flags of her native Poland — even drawing an admonition from chair umpire Aurélie Tourte in the second set.

When Gauff missed the mark early, she really missed. One return went off her racket frame. Another flew 10 feet long. The opening game ended when Gauff wildly hit a swinging volley that landed way out, too, handing over a break.

Swiatek went up 4-1 when Gauff netted a backhand, then slapped her thigh and smacked her racket against a bag on her sideline bench. There were other examples of negative body language: a bowed head here, slumped shoulders there.

Early in the second set, Gauff got into a disagreement with Tourte. A serve by Swiatek was called out just as Gauff was missing her attempted return. Tourte awarded the point to Swiatek, saying the line judge’s call did not affect Gauff’s swing; Gauff argued that it did.

“It’s a Grand Slam semifinal. Know the rules of the game,” Gauff told the official.

The 20-year-old American wound up breaking there with a forehand winner for a 3-1 lead and wagged her fingers to request louder support from the fans.

Might the momentum be shifting?

No.

Swiatek immediately responded with a four-game run and eventually completed the job on her fourth match point when Gauff missed a forehand, eliciting chants of “Iga! Iga!” from the stands.

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This story has been corrected to show that Justine Henin’s three straight titles at Roland Garros came in 2005-2007, not 2007-2009.

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AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer

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