Indian Wells | Swiatek stops Raducanu’s desert run

World No 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek ended Emma Raducanu’s run at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, 6-3 6-1, to reach the quarter-finals where she will meet Sorana Cirstea, who upset 5th-seeded Caroline Garcia, 6-4 4-6 7-5, on Tuesday.

I just feel, like, in these longer rallies I was the one who showed I can bring the pressure on defence, and it's not easy to finish the rally. She was actually doing the same. She was running to every ball and she played those slices, which are tricky, but, honestly, I'm pretty happy with how positive I was, and disciplined. Iga Świątek

While Raducanu played a solid match, pushing the top seed impressively at times, Swiatek worked her way past the British No 1 in an hour and 24 minutes in the late night encounter, taking their head-to-head record to 2-0.

The 21-year old Pole won 74% of her service points without being broken throughout the match, and has now won 14 out of the 17 matches she has played this season.

“I always want to finish as fast as possible, if I have a chance, but, for sure, I know that sometimes it’s not going to be possible here,” Swiatek said. “I’m pretty sure that some of these shots would be winners in different conditions, but here the ball is bouncing, and it’s slower.

“I’m always pretty good in defence. I knew that I can’t rush it and I can’t be not patient, so I just stayed solid and I wanted to choose the right directions. It was more about that, not the speed and forcing everything to play a winner.”

Swiatek finished with 22 winners and 14 unforced errors, while converting 4 of the 10 break points she created, while Raducanu was held to 9 winners against her 22 miscues, going 0 for 2 on break points.


Emma Raducanu did well to keep pace with Iga Swiatek early in the match but was ultimately dominated by the top seed

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Raducanu did well to keep pace with Swiatek early, matching the World No 1 from the baseline and defending valiantly from the corners, but an untimely double-fault while serving down 2-3, 0-30 gave the Pole the chance to break, and the game’s best returner grabbed it immediately.

Riding a run of 9 straight points, Swiatek broke open the match to lead 5-2, and closed out the set two games later.

With a set in hand, Swiatek dominated the second, now playing with a clear game-plan and breaking Raducanu down with patient, prolonged rallies as she closed out the match with great authority.

Raducanu acquitted herself well in her second meeting against Swiatek, but she could not match the Pole in her consistency with her width and depth, and while she was able to stand her ground on the baseline and force Swiatek to unleash her formidable defensive and counter-punching skills, she was eventually out-matched.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Raducanu said later. “Now it’s just about consistent work to physically get to where I want to be.

“I saw a taste of the level where No 1 is at, physically, and how she is at the corners, repetitive, relentless. Yeah, I just couldn’t take that.”

Asked to compare her current form to Swiatek’s, Raducanu added: “Overall I feel, like, physically, she is much further ahead than I am at this moment.

“I think I was able to stay competitive at the beginning of the first set, and then, I think, the first three games took over 20 minutes. We were having some pretty epic rallies and I think my defence got better.”

Despite the loss, Raducanu has had a good week at Indian Wells, where, at only her 4th Tour-level event, she has scored 3 main draw wins in a row over 13th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil, Poland’s 20th seed Magda Linette, and Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

Setting aside concerns over fitness after tonsillitis and a recurrence of the wrist issue, which ended her season last year, the British No 1 showed promising signs of a return to the form that won her the US Open in 2021.

“It feels good. Gives me confidence,” she said. “I think, especially, because of where I was before this tournament, when I didn’t think I would even play, to be honest, but to have played and then won three rounds, and beaten two amazing opponents, I’m very proud of myself.

“Physically, I feel, like, that’s going to be one of my biggest assets. My team has spoken about it. I think that I’m going to be one of the best athletes on the tour, and that’s going to be a big part of my game.

“I would say there is a very long way to go, but I’m definitely starting the right work now.”


Iga Swiatek demonstrated her versatility against Emma Raducanu

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Raducanu certainly put Swiatek under pressure early in the opening set, but some clean ball-striking helped the Pole hold for a 3-2 lead after 2 tight service games, and she raised her level even further to break the Brit in the next game before pulling away.

Having wrapped up the first set when Raducanu sent a shot long from the baseline, Swiatek grabbed an early break in the second to heap the pressure on the 20-year old, whose unforced errors began to mount as result of being stretched to her limits.

Swiatek, bidding to become only the second female player to successfully defend the Indian Wells title after Martina Navratilova in 1990-91, raced to a 5-1 lead playing flawless tennis and running her opponent ragged.

The reigning US Open champion, who arrived in California following a title in Doha and a run to the Dubai final, closed out the win when Raducanu struck the net on serve in a tame end to her fine run at the tournament.

“I just feel, like, in these longer rallies I was the one who showed I can bring the pressure on defence, and it’s not easy to finish the rally,” Swiatek said. “She was actually doing the same.

“She was running to every ball and she played those slices, which are tricky, but, honestly, I’m pretty happy with how positive I was, and disciplined.”

It was another flawless performance by the World No 1 as the defending champion notched her 9th straight BNP Paribas Open victory in decisive fashion, getting the job done in a cool 84 minutes, breaking open a relatively tight first set and rolling through 10 of the final 12 games to book a quarter-final clash with Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

Raducanu will now take a day of rest before travelling to Florida for the WTA 1000 event in Miami, where, as at Indian Wells, she receives another wild-card, while Swiatek takes on Cirstea in the Last 8 in the California desert.


Emma Raducanu (L) put in a solid performance against Iga Swiatek but fell away in the second set at the WTA 1000 event

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Bidding to make her second consecutive WTA 1000 semi-final, the two will face each other for a second time, and it will be their first meeting since the dramatic 3-set duel at the Australian Open last year, where Swiatek rallied from a set down to win 5-7 6-3 6-3 in the Round of 16.

“I still remember that match,” Cirstea said. “It was an amazing match, and, usually, I don’t say that when I lose a match. Since then she just took off. She’s been playing amazing.

“She’s such a complete player, she moves great, she doesn’t have any flaws in her game. She’s, from my point of view, the best mover we have. It’s really hard to find a weakness in her game.

“I like Iga, I think she’s the sweetest girl. She’s such a wonderful role model.”

Cirstea, a Romanian ranked 83, booked her spot in her first Indian Wells quarter-finals with a big upset, knocking out Garcia, the World No 5 from France, 6-4 4-6 7-5, after a 2 hours 23 minute battle.

“I’ve been playing quite well as well, so I’m quite confident in my game,” she continued. “I know it’s not going to be easy. I know she’s the favourite.”


Sorana Cirstea upset World No 5 Caroline Garcia on Tuesday to earn her first top-5 win since 2017

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Romanian earned her first top-5 win since 2017 in beating the Frenchwoman and, at 32, is now probably in the latter stages of a career that once took her as high as World No 21, but this is not slowing her down any after reaching her biggest quarter-final of the season so far.

A small contingent of Romanian fans in the stands cheered her on, and she broke in the opening game to love before going on a run of winning 6 straight points, before Garcia won her first point of the match at 1-0, 30-15.

Garcia then went on a streak of her own, breaking back and firing off a couple of aces to consolidate her service game to lead 2-1, and then 3-2, but an errant return that drifted to the left sideline gave Cirstea another break point, which the Frenchwoman saved with an ace before the Romanian nailed an overhead smash to go up 5-3.

After Garcia held, Cirstea served for the set, which she took in 37 minutes.

The second was quite balanced until Cirstea broke again at 3-2, but Garcia then had a hat-trick of chances at 4-3 to break back, and capitalised by playing safe off the drive volley.

Back on track, Garcia fought her way to levelling the match at a set all, taking the second despite Cirstea leading 6-4 4-3, 40-0, and nabbing the first set off the Romania at this year’s Indian Wells.

Cirstea broke Garcia in her opening service game of the decider and raced away to a 3-0 lead, with a bagel looming but the Frenchwoman showed incredible grit to get herself to 5-4, winning 5 of the next 6 games.

For the second time in the match, just as Garcia seemed to hold the edge, she was broken in the very next game and Cirstea served out the match to complete the upset.


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