Indian Wells | Swiatek sets up Last 8 blockbuster with Wozniacki

Iga Swiatek’s quest for a second BNP Paribas Open title at Indian Wells remained on track as the World No 1 sailed past Yulia Putintseva into the quarter-finals on Tuesday, setting up a blockbuster encounter with Caroline Wozniacki, who won the contest of the two returning mothers against Angelique Kerber.

I just knew I had to keep my focus because she was trying some different stuff out there. But I really wanted to just play my game and focus on what I wanted to do. Iga Świątek

Also through to the Last 8 were Marta Kostyuk, a straight sets upset winner over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Anastasia Potapova, who stopped Jasmine Paolini’s run in 3 sets.

Playing in her first night session match of the tournament, Swiatek easily swept aside Putintseva, 6-1 6-2, outclassing the Russian-born Kazakh in 71 minutes.

Despite a slow start and having to save 4 break points in the 3rd game before finding her groove, Swiatek then seamlessly adjusted to the different conditions, and credited the intel she had received from Wozniacki about adjusting her string tension, and scheduling her practice session the day before under the lights.

Although Putintseva kept pace early in the match, she was quickly dominated by the 22-year old Pole, who reeled off 5 games in a row with her speed and power, prompting the Kazakh to throw her racket in frustration when Swiatek wrapped up the opener up in less than 30 minutes.

Swiatek was particularly outstanding on her returns and accuracy from the baseline, bagging the set and then the first 3 games of the second, and looking to be heading for her 72nd career bagel, but Putintseva is a tenacious fighter and held firm, finding a break on the Pole’s serve to keep herself in the race.

She threw every trick she could muster to try to disrupt Swiatek’s intensity, including an underarm serve and unleashing one of the biggest forehands she could find, and, for a brief period, she was able to mount some resistance in the match.

“I can only be responsible for what’s going on with me,” Swiatek told reporters. “I want to keep my standards high, no matter what’s going on, and, I think, this match was a test for my mental training that I did.

“I’m happy with the way I was focused and really just, I didn’t really care about what’s going on. I’m prepared that many things can happen on court.”

The waves turned out to be a brief wobble for the World No 1, who simply found another gear to power her way past to an easy win.

On a cool night in the California desert, Swiatek struck 17 winners while holding Putintseva to just 4, the win taking the Pole to 17-2, and tying her with Elena Rybakina and Emma Navarro for the most wins this year.

“I just knew I had to keep my focus because she was trying some different stuff out there,” Swiatek said, referring to Putintseva’s underarm serve in the second set. “But I really wanted to just play my game and focus on what I wanted to do.”

Caroline Wozniacki won the battle of the Mums against Angelique Kerber to set up a quarter-final meeting with Iga Swiatek at Indian Wells

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Swiatek advances to a Last 8 showdown against former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday, when the Dane arrived in her first WTA 1000 quarter-final since 2019 after defeating Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-2, earlier in the evening.

“She’s a really experienced player,” Swiatek said of the 2011 Indian Wells champion. “I think she’s playing great after her maternity break, she was fighting to come back.

“I have huge respect. It’s going to be a nice match. I’m going to prepare like any other, but off the court she’s a great person.”

Swiatek will face Wozniacki for the second time in her career, and the first time since their initial meeting at 2019 Toronto when, then a qualifier ranked No 65, the Pole stunned No 18 Wozniacki, 1-6 6-3 6-4.

Wozniacki and Kerber have returned from maternity leave within the past year, and both have stood on top of the world rankings and won major titles.

Tuesday marked the 16th all-time meeting between the close friends, although they had not faced off since 2018, when Wozniacki levelled the series at 8-8.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” 33-year old Wozniacki said after their match. “I took a long time off, more than 3 1/2 years, for me to be back here on this court, and playing against the best players in the world, is a special feeling.

“I’m just enjoying myself, and I’m just thrilled that I get another match in front of all of you guys.”

Both are struggling with the assorted aches and pains that come with age

“I could see her struggling with her back,” said Wozniacki, now a mother of two, in her on-court interview. “Yeah, I’m just happy I won.”

Kerber is now 36 and came to California with a 1-6 win/loss record for the season after a 17-month sabbatical to give birth to a daughter, Liana, and she promptly ran off 3 straight wins in the desert, before her serve let her down,

It was difficult to tell them apart on Stadium 2, wearing matching black-and-white Adidas dresses and visors, mirror images, hitting acutely angled shots from their right and left-handed wings.

Wozniacki was serving for the first set at 5-1, but Kerber rallied and broke back, twice, to wrench it back on serve at 4-5.

That was when the Dane called for the trainer, and had some lengthy work done on her right foot, a blister on her big toe needing attention.

Back on court, Wozniacki was all business again, striking a well-crafted forehand that Kerber could not quite run down, and breaking the German for the 3rd time to pocket the set.

The Dane jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second when she broke Kerber for a 4th time, and, at 4-1, it was Kerber who called for medical attention for her ailing back.

It was over when the German sent 2 tired backhands into the net, prompting an embrace at net as they shared a good laugh together.

For Wozniacki, it was her 156th win at a WTA 1000 hard-court event, equalling another good friend, Agnieszka Radwanska, for the most since the level was introduced some 15 years ago, and only Lindsay Davenport, with 47, and Maria Sharapova, on 38, have more than the Dane’s 36 wins at Indian Wells.

Wozniacki said she is relishing the opportunity to continue her run at Indian Wells, after making the quarters for the first time in 4 years, and due to face Swiatek on Thursday.

“Obviously she’s playing good tennis, playing powerfully,” Wozniacki said of the young Pole. “I practiced with her as well a few times after I have come back, during the US Open as well. I know how she plays, but it’s one thing knowing how she plays, and also playing against her in a full match.

“I know that I have to play my best tennis to compete against her, and that’s what I hope to do.”

Marta Kostyuk upset No 22 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach her first WTA 1000 quarter-final on Tuesday

The winner will face either Marta Kostyuk or Anastasia Potapova in the semi-finals on Friday.

Kostyuk, the No 31 seed from Ukraine, upset an out-of-sorts No 22, seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4 6-1, dropping just 4 points on serve in the match and breaking the Russian 5 times to reach her first quarter-final at a WTA 1000 event.

The Ukrainian had edged Pavlyuchenkova in a 3-setter in San Diego earlier this month, but had an easier time in this, their 4th-round, encounter.

“It definitely helped that I played her [recently],” the 21-year-old Kostyuk, who reached the Australian Open quarters in January, told the Tennis Channel. “The conditions were much better for my game here, the ball bounces much higher and it’s a bit warmer.

“I didn’t feel like I was in so much trouble, like I did in San Diego.”

Anastasia Potapova ended Jasmine Paolini's winning streak to make it into her first WTA 1000 quarter-final at Indian Wells

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Potapova also booked her first trip to the quarter-finals of a WTA 1000 event with her win over Dubai champion Jasmine Paolini, snapping the Italian’s 8-match winning streak, 7-5 0-6 6-3, after an hour and 47 minutes.

The No 28 seeded Russian overcame a dismal performance in the second set to complete her upset of 13th-seeded Paolini, rallying from a 4-5 deficit in the first set before things went awry.

Paolini was dominant, winning 5 of 6 second-serve points and converting 3 of 4 break points during the second set, which also featured 6 double-faults from Potapova, but, after dropping the first game of the decider, the Russian rattled off 3 straight games and never allowed the Italian to get even the rest of the way.

“Let’s just forget about that second set,” Potapova said. “I’m really happy that I found this focus inside myself and could manage to finish this match.

“When I went to the bathroom, I just looked in the mirror and said to myself, ‘Well it’s now or never’. You have to try your best, just fight for every point and just don’t let it go.”

Close friends Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber embraced at the net with a laugh after the battle of the returning Mums on Tuesday

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images



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