World No 1 Iga Swiatek found her way past Danielle Collins in 3 sets into the semi-final against Jessica Pegula, who ousted her doubles partner Coco Gauff at the Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers on Friday.
Watching her play the last couple of weeks I feel, like, she’s been coming out really, really fast and getting really good leads, and being able to play freely... I just didn’t want her to be able to free up, and start serving really well, and ripping and playing super aggressive. So it worked out, kind of, perfectly today. I can’t say that’s always the case. But yeah, I wanted to be very tough the first few games just keep that pressure on really early. Jessica Pegula
Reaching the Last 4 in Montreal for the first time, Swiatek outlasted Collins, an American qualifier, 6-3 4-6 6-2, needing 2 hours and 21 minutes to figure out the test.
Collins fought back in the 2nd set, but the 22-year old Pole took advantage of the second serve throughout the match, breaking the American twice in the 3rd to seal the win.
“I really wanted to play powerful, and I’m pretty happy that I managed to even increase the power in the third set,” she said. “For sure, I was looking for that.
“Today I felt like I really needed to go even higher in terms of the intensity.”
For a place in Sunday’s final, Swiatek will face Pegula, who defeated Gauff, her doubles partner and fellow American, 6-2 5-7 7-5, ending the 19-year old’s 6-match winning streak, which included the Washington title last Sunday.
“It’s always tough to play your doubles partner, you know exactly what you’re trying to do,” Pegula said afterwards. “It just came down to the wire, and who was going to compete better.”
For the second straight day, Swiatek needed 3 sets to advance, but she eventually won her 50th match of the season, taking her tally over the past 2 seasons to 117 matches, the most on the Hologic WTA Tour since Angelique Kerber in 2015-16.
Collins was looking to win her 6th match in 7 days, having defeated Eugenie Bouchard in the 1st-round of qualifying, and then, in the main draw, taking out Elina Svitolina, 8th-seeded Maria Sakkari, and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in the Round of 16.
“I think, from an energy perspective, that probably had a big effect on the match,” Collins said later. “I don’t want to take away from Iga’s performance. I think the way she was hitting her shots and her precision and what she was doing tactically was great.”
Top-seeded Swiatek, whose 4th-round match on Thursday was spread over 9 hours due to 2 lengthy rain delays, looked on the way to a quick win when she rode 2 breaks to a 5-1 lead in the opener, but Collins, the first qualifier to reach the quarter-finals of the event since 2019, found her range, winning 2 straight games before the Pole pocketed the set.
Broken to open the second, the American struck back for 2-2, and then again in the 10th game to force the 3rd set.
From there, though, Swiatek was in control, breaking Collins for a second time for a 5-2 lead and claiming the win on her 3rd match point with a sizzling forehand winner.
Swiatek has now won 3 of 4 career matches against Collins, who is a former World No 7 and an Australian Open finalist in 2022.
The Pole collected the first break of the match on Collins’ opening service game, and 2 missed backhands gave Swiatek a 2-0 lead, which soon blossomed to 3-0 after a love game punctuated by an ace.
Collins broke Swiatek in the 8th game, but Swiatek finished the first set off with an un-returnable serve.
The second began as the first set had done, with Swiatek breaking to take a 2-0 lead, but the American broke right back and, with the Pole serving at 4-5, levelled the match, after which Collins converted her 4th set point when the top seed’s backhand flew wide.
The first advantage in the decider went Swiatek’s way, and, feasting on second serves, she worked it to break point, and a Collins forehand soared wide for a 2-1 lead.
Swiatek broke Collins again in the 7th game and served it out, converting her 3rd match point, for the win.
“I’m really proud of myself, that I made it to the semis,” Swiatek said later. “I’m happy that I can play another match.”
Her semi-final opponent, Pegula, the No 4 seed, took down Gauff in an earlier all-American quarter-final battle that also took 2 hours and 21 minutes to resolve.
Pegula improved her career record to 2-1 against Gauff, and the pair were the top seeds in the doubles draw in Montreal, but, after their match, they withdrew from the competition.
Snagging the first break of the final set when Gauff coughed up her 8th double-fault, Pegula was pegged back as the 19-year old regained the deficit and levelled the set at 4-all.
A forehand and a backhand into the net in the 11th game gave Pegula a break chance and, after another double-fault from Gauff, the World No 3 served it out with a love game.
“It was a tough match for me today,” Gauff admitted afterwards. “I started off a little bit slow, but I was able to turn it around a little bit for the second set.
“Then, in the third, I think I could have served a little bit better, been more aggressive in certain moments, and less unforced errors, but Jess is not an easy player. If you don’t hit a great shot, she’s going to punish you for it.”
Pegula led the 3rd set 3-1 and 4-2, but Gauff had forged a come-back and won 3 straight games to take the lead.
Responding with 3 straight game wins of her own, Pegula dropped only 2 points and swept the final game.
Gauff held a 7-2 edge in aces, but she also committed 9 double-faults to Pegula’s 4, while the latter saved 5 of the 8 break points she faced, and converted 5 of her 8 chances to break the teenager.
“Watching her play the last couple of weeks I feel, like, she’s been coming out really, really fast and getting really good leads, and being able to play freely,” Pegula observed. “So, obviously, it doesn’t always go to plan, but I wanted to stay as tough as possible at the beginning of the first set.
“I just didn’t want her to be able to free up, and start serving really well, and ripping and playing super aggressive.
“So it worked out, kind of, perfectly today. I can’t say that’s always the case. But yeah, I wanted to be very tough the first few games just keep that pressure on really early.”
When asked if their friendship made their clashes more difficult than normal, 19-year-old Gauff responded: “It doesn’t feel as much as people make it out to be.
“Jess and I have, obviously, more of a public friendship because we’re playing doubles a lot, but I’m friends with a lot of the girls on tour, so it’s quite the same thing.
“Obviously, we’re playing doubles, so you guys, I guess our friendship is more of a big thing, but you’ll be surprised how often we play people that we’re close to on tour,” she added.
“Playing her is difficult, but I don’t think me being friends with her makes it more difficult. I think that’s just my mindset. I want to win regardless who is on the other side of the court.
“When it comes to things like, yeah, she probably knows my game better than most players because we do spend a lot of time together on court with practicing for doubles, and practicing with singles, and stuff, but I guess the personal side of it, no, I don’t think it makes it harder,” she concluded.
Pegula will next face Swiatek for the 8th time on the tour, with the World No 1 currently leading 5-2 in their head-to-head record.
They last locked horns in the Doha final earlier this year, where Swiatek emerged the winner, 6-3 6-0.
Interestingly, both Pegula and Swiatek have done well at the WTA 1000 level over the years – since 2021, they lead all players on the WTA Tour with 8 semi-final appearances each in the category.
Two matches played later on Friday night decided who is to meet in the other semi-final on Saturday, with 3rd-seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan edging past 10th seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia, 5-7 7-5 7-6(8), finishing at around 3am, to take on 15th seed Liudmila Samsonova, another Russian, who beat Swiss 12th seed Belinda Bencic, 6-4 6-4, earlier in the evening.
In the morning, Samsonova upset No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the Round of 16, 7-6(2) 4-6 6-3, while Bencic rallied past Czech 7th-seed Petra Kvitova, 6-7(3) 6-3 6-1.