19-year-old Iga Świątek has become the youngest player to reach the final of the French Open since the American player Jennifer Capriati beat Kim Clijsters in 2001.
She overpowered the Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska in their semi-final, and will now face Sofia Kenin of the United States, the world number six, in Saturday’s final.
Kenin booked her own place in the final with a 6 -4, 7-5 win over the Czech player Petra Kvitova, and will be bidding to win her second Grand Slam of the Year. She also won the Australian Open in Melbourne earlier this year.
Only 21 herself, it will be the first time that the final has been contested by two players 21 and under since 2008.
Świątek’s father is a former Olympic rower for Poland, who wanted his two daughters to become competitive athletes and encouraged them to take up individual sports to improve their chances of success. Her older sister Agata also competed briefly on the circuit, but injuries have largely curtailed her career.
She has never won a senior WTA title, but has enjoyed success on the junior ITF tour where she has won seven events.
Largely unknown outside tennis circles before the French Open began, she created a big stir in the fourth round when she knocked out the number one seed and defending champion Simona Halep out 6 -1, 6 -2, the same score line by which she beat Podoroska.
She has yet to drop a set at this year’s event and has only lost 23 games all tournament, and no more than five in any one match.
Technically she is still a student but has chosen to take what amounts to a gap year to concentrate on her tennis, reasoning that she can always go back to her studies later.
Her decision looks like it is fully vindicated because, whatever happens on Saturday, she is already guaranteed the biggest pay day of her career. The loser of the French Open final takes home a cheque for €850,000 (US $1 million) and the winner double that.
Better still, she has also reached the semi-final of the women’s double as well, which means that she is guarantee another €110,000 (US $130,000).