Iga Swiatek sweeps Ons Jabeur for U.S. Open title

Iga Swiatek
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Poland’s Iga Swiatek swept Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the U.S. Open final for her third Grand Slam singles title, extending her historic streak of dominance in finals.

Swiatek, 21, became the second woman in the Open Era to win her first three major finals in straight sets (Lindsay Davenport) and her 17 games lost over her first three finals shattered Davenport’s record fewest of 23. The Pole extended her streak to 10 consecutive wins in WTA tournament finals — all in straight sets — with this being the first time she lost more than four games in any set.

Swiatek, who also won the French Open in 2020 and this year, became the youngest player to win three Grand Slam singles titles since Maria Sharapova took her third of five in 2008.

This seven-match run was different than her triumphs in Paris marked by perfection. In 2020, she won her first major while ranked 54th without losing more than four games in any set. At this year’s French, her title came on a 35-match win streak.

“On clay, I feel like I’m at home,” she said on ESPN. “But here, it was a new experience for me, so I’m even prouder.”

Going into this Slam, she lost in the second round of her two lead-up hard-court events. She made headlines before the U.S. Open by expressing dissatisfaction with the balls used at the New York City major. Twice this week, she rallied from a set down.

“I’m just not expecting a lot, especially before this tournament,” she said in the trophy ceremony. “It was such a challenging time. … I’m so proud I could handle it mentally.”

None of those obstacles seemed relevant out of the gate Saturday. She won 12 of the first 14 points to go up 3-0 in eight minutes and won the first set in a half-hour against Jabeur, the second-best player in the world this year, the Wimbledon runner-up and, until the final, the better player over the course of this tournament.

“Iga never loses finals,” Jabeur said after the semis.

Jabeur rallied in the second set to become the first player to win more than five games off Swiatek in a final since Swiatek’s very first WTA final in 2019. Jabeur had three break points at 4-all in the second set for a chance to serve for the set. Swiatek held steady. Jabeur staved off a Swiatek match point at 6-5, but the Pole won the last three points of the tiebreak.

The 28-year-old Jabeur, already the first African woman to reach a major final in the Open Era (since 1968), vowed to continue to be an inspiration.

“This is just the beginning of so many things,” she said.

Swiatek, who ascended to No. 1 after Australian Ash Barty‘s shock retirement in March, goes into 2023 with a dominance over the tour arguably not seen since Serena Williams‘ heyday. A win at the next major, the Australian Open, where she lost in the semifinals this year, would put her a Wimbledon title away from a career Grand Slam.

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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