Indian Wells | Swiatek cruises into Sakkari final

Iga Swiatek produced another seemingly routine win to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-2 6-1 over Marta Kostyuk, and, in Sunday’s trophy match, she will meet Maria Sakkari, who upset Coco Gauff, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2, in her later rain-interrupted semi-final.

For sure I am happy with the performance. It was the cleanest match I played here. It’s already a great tournament. I didn't really have any moment today in the match where I didn't feel confident. Iga Świątek

It is Swiatek’s second BNP Paribas Open final, and she was a woman on a mission on Friday as she set about dismantling Kostyuk in just 69 minutes, while Sakkari needed 2 hours and 41 minutes to get past Gauff, her 4th match of the week that had to go the distance.

On a chilly afternoon in the California desert, Swiatek was unyielding, and the World No 1 now stands just one win away from a 2nd Indian Wells title in 3 years, after making ruthlessly quick work of the 21-year old Ukrainian in straight sets.

“I’m proud of myself, and really excited,” Swiatek said after the match. “I think it was a great match for me today. I have all positive vibes.”

Swiatek is now 22-7 in her career in WTA semi-finals, and she will bid for her 19th career title on Sunday.

Facing off for the second time on the Hologic WTA tour, their rivalry goes back to their junior days, when Swiatek was the last woman to defeat Kostyuk before the Ukrainian went on to win the 2017 Australian Open girl’s singles title.

Swiatek won her first junior Slam 18 months later at Wimbledon, and, by the end of 2020, she was on top of the women’s game with her first Grand Slam victory at Roland Garros.

Kostyuk made quicker in-roads on the WTA circuit when she reached the 3rd round of the 2018 Australian Open, but she is yet to reach the high bar that Swiatek has since set as a 4-time major champion and World No 1.

Nevertheless, Kostyuk has started this season with a run to her first major quarter-final in Melbourne, and backed it up at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where she surged into her first WTA 1000 semi-final.

Iga Swiatek ruthlessly dispatched Marta Kostyuk in 69 minutes in their semi-final at Indian Wells

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Although she was first on the board, a combination of erratic play from Kostyuk and relentless hitting from Swiatek helped the top seed reel off the next 5 games, as she took the opener in just over half an hour.

The Stadium 1 crowd, longing for a more competitive match, tried to lift the flustered Ukrainian, who promptly dropped the first 2 games of the second set, and things went from bad to worse in the following game when she jammed her foot on game point.

She had the trainer on during the next sit-down, and took a medical time-out as Swiatek practised her serve to keep warm.

It helped to maintain the 22-year old Pole’s focus, and offered no slack when Kostyuk returned after receiving treatment, consolidating her double-break advantage, and sweeping a forehand into the open court to move within 4 points of the finish line.

Drawing a backhand error from the frustrated and clearly emotional No 31 seed, Swiatek was soon at match point, converting with a thunderous forehand return winner, and improving to 19-2 her season’s match wins to lead the WTA Tour.

Swiatek did not face a break point in the entire match, and dropped just 10 points on serve, while she converted 5 of her 6 break points and struck 14 winners to just 6 unforced errors.

“For sure I am happy with the performance. It was the cleanest match I played here,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview. “It’s already a great tournament. I didn’t really have any moment today in the match where I didn’t feel confident.”

Although Kostyuk hit 17 winners, she produced 23 unforced errors, and could not cope with the Pole’s relentless defensive skills and power.

In fact, the Pole was better in nearly every stat category, connecting on 74% of her first serves, winning 83% of her first-serve points, and 50% of her second-serve points.

Swiatek has not dropped a set on her way to the final, and has only lost 17 games in 5 matches, while her latest win is her 19th on tour this year, and breaks her tie for the tour lead with American Emma Navarro, who has 18.

Asked who she would prefer to play in the final, Gauff or Sakkari, Swiatek responded: “I have no preference in reference to my potential rival in the final. It would be stupid for me to say anything.

“Oh my god… both of them are really great players, and experienced, so they are going to be fighting today, no matter who is going to be there. It’s going to be tough anyway.”

In the head-to-heads, Swiatek leads 9-1 against Gauff, the reigning US Open champion, but is 2-3 against 2022 Indian Wells finalist Maria Sakkari.

Despite the loss, Kostyuk has the consolation of reaching a new career-high ranking of No 26 on Monday.

A resurgent Maria Sakkari upset World No 3 Coco Gauff in a thrilling but rain-interrupted 3-set semi-final on Friday night at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Later, under the lights, Maria Sakkari overcame a spirited fight-back from Coco Gauff to stun the 3rd seed in her rain-interrupted semi-final on Friday.

In their 8th career meeting, the Greek continued her resurgent fortnight in the California desert to extend her winning head-to-head over the American to 5-3, ending Sakkari’s 5-match losing streak to Top 10 opposition, and recording her first Top 3 win since the 2022 WTA Finals.

“We always say, in tennis, one day can change everything, but a month ago I was in Abu Dhabi, I couldn’t hit a ball over the net, and now I’m just here in one of the biggest tournaments playing another final,” Sakkari said later.  “Those are lessons, and those are things that you have to just accept, the more you’re on the tour, that you’re going to have some bad times, and then things can really change in a week.”

Sakkari started working with Jessica Pegula’s long-term coach David Witt at Indian Wells, in a move that has already seemingly paid dividends.

The Greek, often perceived unable to close out big matches, has silenced her critics by prevailing over the home favourite, in spite of Gauff’s fighting spirit.

The US Open champion, though, looked far from her best early on, as the Greek World No 9 drew first blood after a short rain delay, by breaking the 20-year old American in the 9th game, before securing the opening set with some ease.

During the pause between sets, Gauff had her blood pressure and vitals assessed by the trainer, just as a heavier dose of rain descended on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The players were forced off the court for a longer spell, but Sakkari picked up from where she left off when the action resumed, and continued her surge to build a 5-2 lead with a double-break.

Gauff then came charging back, as the American reeled off 4 consecutive games and saved 3 match points along the way before taking the match into a tiebreak.

Maria Sakkari fought off a late fight-back from Coco Gauff who saved 3 match points before forcing a deciding set

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Having rediscovered her rhythm in the high-octane set, Gauff dominated the breaker to level and set up the decider, which began with an exchange of breaks before Sakkari took control after saving 2 break points from 15-40 down to hold for 2-1.

She extended that lead to 3-1 by saving a game point to break, and then saved another break point to hold and give herself an unassailable 4-1 lead before breaking Gauff one final time to seal the win.

“I don’t want to disrespect Coco, but it would have been amazing if this match was over an hour ago,” Sakkari said after the late-night thriller. “I’m going to take this win, even though it was in three sets.

“I was thinking of the finish line in the second set, and then things got tricky. But that was an amazing win.

“Coco is such an amazing opponent. She’s incredible. She fights for every point. I’m just so happy I’m in the final once again here.”

Despite reaching the semi-final, Gauff had produced 17 double-faults in her previous match, although she still won in straight sets, and she managed to keep her count down to 7 against Sakkari, while she fired just 3 aces.

Nevertheless, Sakkari proved the better on the key points throughout, converting 6 of her 12 break-point chances, while Gauff converted just 3 of her 14 chances.

“I knew from the beginning it was going to be very tough,” she told reporters. “You know, a lot of things happened today. Rain delays, obviously, that second set could have been different.

“But I was thinking of that finish line too much, and then I was just thinking too much on how to close out the match. That didn’t really help me. It freaked me out a little bit. I was too nervous.

“But, you know, I’m very proud of myself that I kept my nerves, and then I just fought hard in that third set.”

On Sunday, Sakkari will play in her 4th WTA 1000 final, and her 2nd at Indian Wells, facing Swiatek, the World No 1, in a rematch of the 2022 final, which the Pole won, 6-4 6-1.

“I just kept believing, kept fighting,” Sakkari said after her exceptional triumph. “I didn’t give up. You can easily lose your head, when you lose that second set from being match points up.

“It’s obviously exciting. Just two years later I’m back in the final. This is the best place you can be. It’s gonna be very challenging for sure, she [Swiatek] is the best player in the world.”

This will be the first meeting since that 2022 final, and although Sakkari leads the head-to-head 3-2, Swiatek has won their last two meetings in straight sets.

Top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei & Elise Mertens will face Storm Hunter & Katerina Siniakova in the BNP Paribas Open doubles final on Saturday


The doubles final was set on Friday, and Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei & Elise Mertens from Belgium, the top seeds, will face Australia’s Storm Hunter & Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic, the No 3 seeds, on Saturday.

All 4 women are current or former doubles World No1s, winning 83 doubles titles between them, with Mertens, Hsieh and Hunter currently ranked No 1, No 2 and No 3, respectively.

Mertens and Hunter were voted the Doubles Team of the Year last year before going their separate ways in the off-season, with Hunter pairing with Siniakova immediately after the Czech split with her longtime partner, Barbora Krejcikova.

A full-time team for the first time this season, Hsieh & Mertens started their year off by winning the Australian Open title, beating Hunter & Siniakova in the quarter-finals, 7-5 1-6 6-3, in one of the best matches of the tournament.

Hunter & Siniakova are looking to capture their second title of the season after winning their first team title last month at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

It is the first trip to Indian Wells’ Championship Saturday for Hunter and the fourth for Siniakova, who won the title here last year with Krejcikova.

Champions in 2021, Hsieh & Mertens secured a spot in their 2nd Indian Wells final with a 6-2 7-6(5) win over America’s Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez from Australia, the No 4 seeds and San Diego champions.

That win came on the heels of a dominant 6-1 6-4 win over Dutchwoman Demi Schuurs & Luisa Stefani from Brazil, the No 6 seeds, in the quarter-finals.

Hunter & Siniakova advanced to their 2nd straight WTA 1000 final after defeating American Asia Muhammad & Ena Shibahara from Japan, 6-4 6-4.



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