Swiatek Shows Her Dominance, Wins Indian Wells Title

Iga Swiatek and Maria Sakkari (photo: WTA Tour video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, March 21, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Through the first nearly-three months of the 2022 season, Iga Swiatek has arguably been the most dominant player on the WTA Tour. After all, she’s already won 20 hard-court matches – including 11 consecutive victories, a career-best plateau – and on Sunday, the 20-year-old Polish star garnered her second straight WTA 1000 title.

On a windy afternoon, the World No. 4 and third-seeded Swiatek defeated No. 6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 19 minutes before an enthusiastic crowd that filled Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Center in the Southern California palm desert town that is synonymous with tennis in springtime. It was Swiatek’s second win against Sakkari in five tries.

Swiatek won the final five games of Sunday’s title match, and her sixth-shot forehand winner on her first match-point opportunity secured the title triumph. Upon securing match point, Swiatek tossed her racquet skyward in celebration and then raced over to her box and hugged her coach, Tomasz Witkorowski, and her sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.

After winning her first WTA 1000 crown last month in Doha, Qatar, she has now won the beautiful Baccarat crystal trophy that is awarded to the champion of the BNP Paribas Open, too. It’s her fifth career WTA title and, no doubt, there will be many more.

With her latest triumph, which is also her 11th straight WTA 1000 victory, Swiatek will rise to No. 2 in the new WTA Rankings on Monday. Meanwhile, Sakkari, who began the day ranked No. 6, will become the new No. 3.

“We already started a pretty cool rivalry,” Swiatek after her victory. “I think it’s going to last for, like, 10 more years. I’m sure we’re gong to play many more finals.”

Despite the setback, Sakkari came into Sunday’s final having full faith and confidence in her game and of herself. In her run up to the title match, Sakkari defeated Katerina Siniakova, Petra Kvitova, Daria Saville, Elena Rybakina and defending champion Paula Badosa. Plus, she had beaten the young Polish phenom three times in the past year – at Roland Garros, in Ostrava and at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. So, things seemed going in the right direction for Sakkari.

However, in their most recent matchup before Indian Wells, last month in the Doha semifinals, Swiatek beat Sakkari and maybe – just maybe – the lessons learned that day in the Qatar capital city carried over to Sunday. In her run-up to this final, Swiatek defeated Anhelina Kalinina, Clara Tauson, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys and Simona Halep.

After Swiatek and Sakkari exchanged four service breaks at the start of the match – not to mention shared 10 double faults in the opening set – the 2020 Roland Garros champion settled down and found her rhythm. By the end, Swiatek had won 64 percent of her first-serve points, hit 11 winners to 10 unforced errors (Sakkari countered with 14 winners and 21 unforced errors) and converted six of 11 break points. She outpointed Sakkari 63-48.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Swiatek said. “I wasn’t expecting to be in this place, especially after playing so well in my previous tournaments. I didn’t know it was possible for me to play that well for so long.”

As for the 26-year-old Sakkari, she summed up her feelings by expressing: “Even though today wasn’t my day, this tournament is going to have a very special place in my heart.”

By the numbers

Iga Swiatek is the first Polish woman to win Indian Wells. Her title victory surpasses 2014 BNP Paribas Open finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. Swiatek also will tie the former World No. 2 Radwanska as the highest-ranked Polish player in tennis history, a ranking that Radwanska achieved in 2012.

• In Iga Swiatek’s last five final title matches – all won by the Polish star – she’s lost just a combined 16 games. Her 6-4, 6-1 final tally was the same as it was when she won her first career title, in 2020 at Roland Garros.

“Quotable …”

“I really believe that it’s going to come. Whether it’s this week, next week, in two or three months, I don’t really know. It’s just the way I’m playing right now, the way I’m feeling, the way I approach every match, is different to what it was last year.”

Maria Sakkari of Greece, who will rise to become the new No. 3 in the WTA Rankings.