The 2022 French Open women's final represented a moment for the sport that could be called a changing of the guard. While Iga Swiatek entered the final with a Grand Slam title in her trophy case already -- and on a 34-match winning streak -- the 21-year-old is still just coming into her own as one of the world's great players. She staked a dominant claim to that as she cruised to victory over Coco Gauff with a 6-1, 6-3 win in the final at Roland Garros in a match where she was almost never seriously challenged.
Swiatek won the fall edition of the French Open in 2020 after it was postponed due to COVID-19 -- and she told NBC Sports after this win why taking home the trophy as the No. 1 player in the world is different than being a surprise winner and the lowest-ranked woman to ever win the event.
"I feel like two years ago I was pretty lucky that I could be there and basically I was living kind of in a bubble for two weeks," said Swiatek, the only Polish player to win a Grand Slam title.
"This time I felt the pressure. ... I felt baggage on my shoulders because I wasn't an underdog anymore and I'm even more proud that I could do it and that I could make it for the second time."
Now on a 35-match win streak, tied with Venus Williams for the longest since 2000, Swiatek said she's looking forward to some rest after this win because of the grind of being on top.
"I needed to be here mentally and physically to be ready because I had many long matches during this time ... and tennis-wise I also needed to be more aggressive and I've finally realized how to do that and it's all coming together. ... I hope it's going to continue being like that."
Gauff was in her first Grand Slam final -- it was the first time she'd advanced past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam event -- and while she'd played in some big matches before, this was much different against an opponent locked in from the first serve.
Swiatek broke Gauff's serve in the first game and raced out to a 4-0 lead before Gauff could catch her breath and get a hold to win her only game of the first set. Gauff did go up 2-0 in the second set, but Swiatek rattled off five straight games and didn't look back.
Gauff, an 18-year-old from Delray Beach, Florida, was disappointed after the loss, but talked about how this match -- and her run to the final -- has helped boost her confidence.
"For a while I really believed I couldn't do it just because ever since I was 15 and I first came on people had so much expectations for me and I started to believe that I couldn't do it and you know I made a final and I wasn't expecting it and I know that I'll get this opportunity again and I hope that I can come out on top next time.
The numbers tell the story of a dominant and composed match for Swiatek -- which was the story of her tournament and could be the tag line for her last three months of tennis. 73% first serves in, 72% win rate on first serves, 5-for-10 in break point chances, just 16 unforced errors. On the other side of the court Gauff struggled on her first serve, winning just 46% of her first serve points and coming away with three double faults and 23 unforced errors and 21 forced errors.
The next big tournament on the tennis calendar is Wimbledon, which starts June 27. Ash Barty, who retired earlier this year, won the women's singles in 2021. Wimbledon wasn't played in 2020 due to COVID-19 and the most recent champion expected in the field is 2019 winner Simona Halep.