Madrid | Swiatek to meet Keys in semi-final

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek came from a set down to defeat Beatriz Haddad Maia, 4-6 6-0 6-2, and reach the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open for a second straight year, where she will meet Madison Keys, who lost the first 8 games before settling in for a 0-6 7-5 6-1 upset win over Ons Jabeur on Tuesday.

At one point it was, like, wow, this is embarrassing. We’ve got to figure something out. But I think, eventually, I was just, like, I’m just going to start going for things. I’m going to start just trying to focus on myself and my game, just try to get into every single game, and just try to make things competitive. Madison Keys

Swiatek was up 4-1 in the first set, but the 14th-ranked Brazilian rallied to snatch the opener, stinging the World No 1 to respond by bagelling the second, and dropping just 2 games in the third.

Madrid is the only high-profile European clay tournament that Swiatek has yet to win, and she has her eyes set firmly on reaching the final to, at the very least, emulate her run there last year, where Aryna Sabalenka proved slightly better in a thrilling championship match.

It took the 22-year old Pole 2 hours and 29 minutes to navigate her way past the resilient Brazilian, after first experiencing stiff resistance.

Back at Toronto 2022, Swiatek lost her first career encounter with Haddad Maia in the 3rd-round, but she has now won 3 straight matches over the Brazilian, having also triumphed in last year’s Roland Garros semi-finals and at this year’s United Cup.

Left-handed Beatriz Haddad Maia snatched the opening set against Iga Swiatek but could then only muster 2 more games in the Madrid quarter-finals

© Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images

Haddad Maia, a powerful left-hander, started slowly, conceding her serve in the 4th game with a double-fault, enabling Swiatek to take an early 4-1 lead, but the World No 1 was also far from her best in a scrappy opening passage of play, and she had squandered triple break point in the 2nd game, thanks to cheap backhand misfires, and had needed to save break point in two of her own service games..

Once Haddad Maia’s big forehand began finding the court, she was able to take advantage of Swiatek’s vulnerability on serve to reel off 5 straight games for the set.

“I needed to, for sure, stick to the tactics, because, in the first set, I started making too many mistakes,” Swiatek admitted later. “I started playing too fast.

“I just needed to, really, get back to basics, and what I wanted to play today. It took me a while, longer than usual, but I’m glad that it happened after the set anyway.”

After committing an uncharacteristic 13 unforced errors to only 8 winners in the opener, Swiatek left the court to reset, before returning to respond in style.

Raising her intensity, she rattled through a run of 8 games in a row, smothering Haddad Maia with both offence and defence.

Swiatek lowered her error count to just 5 in the second set, during which she did not face a single break point and dropped only 12 points in total, while Haddad Maia could find only 1 winner against her 14 unforced errors.

Riding her momentum deep into the third set, Swiatek built a quick 4-1 lead, and although Haddad Maia, now with her back to the wall, was able to land a few more accurate blows, forcing the Pole to work harder before the top seed unleashed a pair of heavy forehands to close out the win.

Swiatek advances to her 5th semi-final of the year, and the 15th of her career at WTA 1000 level, while her second-set scoreline also ties her with Coco Gauff for the most number of 6-0 sets won in 2024 to date, with both notching up 7 in bagels, which is 2 ahead of 3rd-placed Sabalenka with 5.

Madison Keys endured the loss of a bagel set before rallying to upset No 8 seed Ons Jabeur and reach the Last 4 where she will meet Iga Swiatek

© Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images

In Thursday’s semi-final, Swiatek will face Madison Keys, the No 18 seed from the USA, who got bagelled herself, but then relaxed sufficiently to upset Ons Jabeur, the World No 8 from Tunisia, in the second quarter-final match on Tuesday.

“At one point it was, like, wow, this is embarrassing,” Keys said. “We’ve got to figure something out. But I think, eventually, I was just, like, I’m just going to start going for things. I’m going to start just trying to focus on myself and my game, just try to get into every single game, and just try to make things competitive.

“Once I did that, it felt like the momentum switched really quickly. Being able to get even just to 2-All in the second set, all of a sudden I felt like, okay, I’m actually really in thism and I can win this match.”

Jabeur had come off a comprehensive win over Jelena Ostapenko, the 9th-seeded Latvian, that also included an opening bagel set, and the Tunisian barely missed a trick in the opener.

When Keys finally got herself on the scoreboard, she raised her arms in triumph, and the moment heralded the start of a terrific come-back over the 2022 champion.

“The key was to get a game,” Keys said with a smile during a post-match interview with the WTA. “Once I did that, I feel, like, I finally settled in and relaxed a little bit. Allowed myself to play some good tennis.”

World No 9 Ons Jabeur had the contest under control until Madison Keys found her serve and defensive skills to win in 3 sets at La Caja Magica in Madrid on Tuesday

© Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images

While Jabeur first came out carving shots with freedom, Keys was unable to get any rhythm going, and 10 unforced errors contributed to the 18th seed being blanked for the first time since 2022 Indian Wells by Swiatek, as the Tunisian closed the dominant 24-minute set with an ace up the T.

The 8th seed then broke Keys for a 4th time by asserting herself in their baseline exchanges, but a love hold eventually stopped the bleeding for the American, with a finishing inside-out forehand winner signalling a significant sea-change.

Jabeur tightened up as the defensive skills of Keys came to the fore to extend the rallies, resulting in the Tunisian dropping serve for the first time after a pair of netted forehands.

Both pushed on, raising their levels over the next several games by creating a more balanced set of tennis, before Keys, with a growing confidence, improved on her own serve.

When Keys held from deuce at 5-5, three well-struck returns produced a trio of set points, and she converted on the 2nd, when Jabeur’s backhand sailed long, to earn her first set in 6 played against the 29-year-old.

At 0-1, 40-15, in the third, Jabeur slipped on the baseline, and flashed a thumbs up, but it would prove the last time in the contest that things would be OK for the Tunisian.

Reeling off the next 4 points to break, Keys went on a 7-game run to turn the encounter on its head, and, after Jabeur managed a hold, the American shut the door to halt her opponent’s win streak at 9.

Before producing her best career result in Madrid, Keys had lost 6 consecutive matches in the Spanish capital.

“My, literally, entire career, everyone has been, ‘You’ll love Madrid. It’s amazing. You’re going to do so well there’,” Keys said. “And I have lost, like, first or second round, except for once, every single year. I was, like, ‘I don’t think that’s true’.

“But yeah, I guess this year it’s finally clicking and maybe it is suited for my game, or at least this Madison’s game.”

Keys, who missed the Australian Open due to a shoulder injury, has now earned more wins this week than she had in her 3 prior tournaments this year, having arrived in Madrid with a 3-3 record since her season began at March’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

For a spot in her 4th career WTA 1000-level final, Keys will next face Swiatek, who owns a 2-1 head-to-head edge against the American, although the 2017 US Open finalist earned a victory the last time they played in Cincinnati 2 years ago.

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka has survived 3 matches that have gone the distance to reach the semi-final and will play 17-year old Mirra Andreeva for spot in the final on Thursday

© Oscar Del Pozo/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the quarter-finals wrap up with defending champion Sabalenka meeting 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the Belarusian having won their only prior meeting in the 4th-round last year, here in Madrid.

No 4 seed, Rybakina faces fellow Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, with Putintseva ahead 2-0 in their head-to-head record, but in-form Rybakina has won her last 15 matches on the clay.



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