Iga Swiatek. (Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images)
An emergency toilet break propelled world number one Iga Swiatek into a US Open final showdown with trailblazing fifth-seeded Tunisia Ons Jabeur Thursday.
Two-time French Open champion Swiatek advanced to the first US Open final of her career after coming from behind to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The victory sent the 21-year-old Pole into a final on Saturday with Jabeur, who beat the Frenchman Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Sabalenka, the Belarusian sixth seed, looked set to surprise after a dominant first-set performance in which she beat Swiatek no less than three times.
But Swiatek was rejuvenated after a quick bathroom jump after the first set.
“I kind of needed to go,” Swiatek said. “I definitely felt lighter. I’m sorry, it’s disgusting.”
Swiatek also said the break helped her analyze the flaws in her debut performance.
“I tried to use that time to think about what to change because I remember when I was younger all I did in the bathroom between sets after I lost was cry .
“But this time I could think about what to change and solve the problem.”
The break did the trick as Swiatek raced through the second set to level the game and then punished a late collapse from Sabalenka to close out a gutsy win.
Sabalenka, who led from a break and led 4-2 in the final set, was upset by the loss. Later, she appeared at a press conference with mirrored sunglasses and a baseball cap on her face.
It was the third time that Sabalenka failed in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam.
“My team keeps telling me that I have to be proud of myself, of what I’ve done over the past few months,” she said.
“But I don’t feel like that. I feel like in those three semi-finals I had so many opportunities and I didn’t use them.”
In Thursday’s other semi-final, Jabeur outclassed France’s Garcia to become the first African woman to reach the US Open final.
It was another milestone for Jabeur, who was also the first African woman to reach the Wimbledon final in July.
The Tunisian dominated Garcia from start to finish in a one-sided semi-final that lasted just over an hour.
“It’s amazing,” Jabeur said. “After Wimbledon I had a lot of pressure on me and I’m really relieved to be able to save my results.
“The hard-court season started a bit badly, but I’m very happy to have reached the final here.”
Jabeur’s win extended his career-long dominance over Garcia.
The 28-year-old Tunisian had beaten Garcia four times as a Grand Slam junior and twice as a Grand Slam professional before Thursday.
“I know she was playing amazing tennis and that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Jabeur said. “It wasn’t easy for me, but mentally I was so ready.”
Garcia, seeded 17, had reached the last four after a 13-game winning streak, including a win in the Cincinnati Masters preliminary event.
But Jabeur ruthlessly dismantled Garcia’s dream of becoming the first Frenchwoman to win the US Open crown with a clinical victory.
The Frenchwoman later admitted that she struggled to cope with the pressure of the occasion.
“Obviously the nerves were there,” Garcia said. “Today I knew it was the semi-finals, so you know what it means to you if you win and what you want to achieve. It’s been a dream since I was a little girl.
“I did my best. I kept fighting, I kept going, because I know that’s my way of doing things.”