Swiatek powers past Podoroska to reach maiden Grand Slam final

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - October 8, 2020 Poland's Iga Swiatek during her semi final match against Argentina's Nadia Podoroska REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Polish teenager Iga Swiatek became the youngest player to reach the French Open women's final in 19 years when she powered past Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2 6-1 on Thursday.

The 19-year-old will on Saturday meet either Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or twice Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, who face each other in the second last-four encounter, in her maiden final appearance at a major.

World number 131 Podoroska, who was looking to become the first qualifier to reach a final at a major in either the men's or women's singles draw, had no answer to Swiatek's powerful groundstrokes and sleek movement on court.

Swiatek had broken serve 27 times en route to the last four stage and added five more to that count before finishing off the one-sided contest on Court Philippe Chatrier in 69 minutes.

"I'm kind of surprised, really. I always knew that if I would be in a Grand Slam final, it would be at the French Open," Swiatek said on court after becoming the first Polish woman to reach the Roland Garros final in 81 years and the first at any major since Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon eight years ago.

"I wanted to play this match as a first-round match, I didn't want to think of it as a semi-final otherwise I would have been too stressed. I just wanted to be aggressive like previous matches. I'm feeling good and like nothing hurts me."

Swiatek, the youngest player to reach the women's final at Roland Garros since Kim Clijsters in 2001, looked to impose herself on the match early and jumped to a 3-0 lead.

She managed to hit through the court well, both off the forehand and backhand, and painted the red clay with winners.

Unable to put up much resistance, Podoroska decided to show more aggression and started coming forward more to cut down the time for Swiatek to hit her big shots.

That helped her hold two service games but was not enough to derail Swiatek, who faced just a single breakpoint in the opening set.

Podoroska, who earned more than she had in her entire career by reaching the semi-finals, would have hoped for the tide to turn in the second set but there was no respite.

Swiatek, who will also play the doubles semi-final on Friday, kept up the tempo and raced to a 4-0 lead before some nervous errors allowed Podoroska to avoid a second-set bagel with a break of serve.

Yet the Pole, who has lost only 23 games in six matches, broke back immediately and ended Podoroska's ordeal on the first match point with an unreturned serve.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)

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