Swiatek Focused From First Ball To Last Ball In Stuttgart

Iga Swiatek (photo: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix)

STUTTGART/WASHINGTON, April 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Iga Swiatek kept her winning streak alive at the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart Friday evening. She hasn’t lost a set – or even been pushed to a tie-break – in her last 11 matches going back to Indian Wells last month and has won 13 consecutive matches in straight sets.

With her 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu in a matchup that featured the 2020 Roland Garros champion against the 2021 US Open titlist, the top-seeded Swiatek ran her winning streak to 21 straight matches and she’s also won 28 sets in a row. It’s advanced her to her fourth consecutive semifinal and sixth semifinal this season.

Focused from first ball to last ball, the 20-year-old Polish star closed out the victory on her second match-point opportunity after Raducanu hit an eighth-shot backhand return wide. Swiatek overcame 36 unforced errors by hitting 28 winners during the one-hour and 45-minute Center Court match on the indoor clay in Porsche Arena. She broke the Briton’s serve three times in four attempts. Swiatek won 70 percent (26 of 37) of her first-serve points and was broken just once. She outpointed the 19-year-old Raducanu 67-54.

The quarterfinal match was Raducanu’s first against a Top-10 opponent. To her credit, she won more games – eight – than anyone in Swiatek’s last 10 matches.

“I’m so happy that the match today took a bit longer,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview following her 30th victory of the season, which includes a pair of wins in Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers play last weekend. In her second-round win over 342nd-ranked qualifier Eva Lys of Germany, Swiatek dropped just two games during the 62-minute match.

“Every minute I’m able to play on the surface helps me to get used to the clay. For the future, it’s going to give me a lot of experience,” Swiatek added.

Swiatek began her winning streak by garnering three straight WTA 1000 titles starting in February at Doha (5-0). Then, she went undefeated in March, winning six matches in Indian Wells and six more in Miami. Since then, she won a pair of Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers matches last weekend against Romania and has won both of her Stuttgart matches.

The World No. 1 Swiatek’s 28 consecutive sets won dates back to her 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 fourth-round triumph over Angelique Kerber at Indian Wells. It’s the longest set winning streak since Serena Williams also won 28 straight sets between the 2012 US Open final and the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals.

Next, Swiatek will play unseeded World No. 31 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, who has enjoyed a solid week in Stuttgart with three consecutive straight-set wins to reach her first WTA Tour semifinal of the year. The unseeded Samsonova advanced to Saturday’s semifinal match against Swiatek following her 7-5, 6-3 victory over 2017 Stuttgart champion Laura Siegemund of Germany.

“I knew that it was going to be a very tough match,” Samsonova said. “The way she plays, she changes her game a lot. So, I had to be very, very focused today.”

Samsonova is 2-1 against Top 10 players over the past 12 months and is ninth on tour in first-serve points win (71.1 percent). The 23-year-old Russian has compiled a 9-7 win-loss record this season.

“She’s currently in very good form,” Swiatek said of Samsonova. “I know her from the juniors as there’s not much of an age gap between us. But if I manage to concentrate on my game, then I’ll be in with a good chance.”

Win or lose, Badosa will rise to World No. 2

Saturday’s first semifinal will feature World No. 3 Paula Badosa of Spain against World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Both advanced with three-set quarterfinal wins, with No. 2 seed Badosa prevailing over Tunisia’s No. 7 seed Ons Jabeur, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 6-1, while No. 3 seed Sabalenka ended the 22-match indoor winning streak of No. 5 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Badosa and Sabalenka played doubles together earlier this week. Win or lose against Sabalenka, Badosa is assured of rising to World No. 2 in the WTA Rankings next week.

By the numbers

Iga Swiatek has won her last seven matches against Top-20 competition. Her last loss against a Top 20 player came against former No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at Adelaide in January.

“Quotable …”

“I’ve seen the scores, and it seems like [Samsonova] is getting more and more confident, and her ranking is going up. So, for sure, she’s one to watch, and she’s doing huge progress.”

– Top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland commenting after her Friday quarterfinal victory about her semifinal opponent, Liudmila Samsonova of Russia.