World No 1 Iga Swiatek and home favourite Barbora Krejickova will fight it out for the AGEL Open 2022 title in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, on Sunday, both having come through tough semi-finals in which they had to overcome strong challenges from Ekaterina Alexandrova and Elena Rybakina respectively.
I know that the final is going to be tough, and Barbora plays a little bit differently than my opponent today, so tactically I have to be ready,. It doesn’t really matter for me if it’s a final or any other round, I’m just going to give it my all. Iga Świątek
With her very tight 7-6(5) 2-6 6-4 win over Alexandrova, Swiatek became the first WTA Tour player since 2017 to achieve 60 wins in a calendar year, while she also made her 8th final of the season in which she has yet to be defeated.
Earlier in the day, Krejcikova had thrilled home fans with a come-back win against Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4, after 2 hours and 21 minutes.
The last player to win 60 matches in a single season was Caroline Wozniacki in 2017, and there were spells during which it looked as if Swiatek was not going to be able to equal that record as she came off second best to Alexandrova in winners and service breaks and yet prevailed in her 2 hour 38 minute semi-final.
It seems to be the weekend for history-making as Krejcikova became the the first Czech player to make the Ostrava final in its 3-year history.
The 21-year-old Swiatek is 10-1 in career WTA Tour singles finals, with her only loss coming to Slovenia’s Polona Hercog in her first career championship match at Lugano in 2019, and she won her last 10 all in straight sets.
“I know that the final is going to be tough, and Barbora plays a little bit differently than my opponent today, so tactically I have to be ready,” said Swiatek.
“It doesn’t really matter for me if it’s a final or any other round, I’m just going to give it my all.”
Alexandrova had triumphed over Swiatek in their only prior encounter, which came at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne early last year, but the Pole levelled their rivalry at 1-1 despite trailing the Russian in winners, 25 to 34, and service breaks, 2 to 3, on Saturday.
In fact, Alexandrova’s 17 winners in the first set was more than double Swiatek’s 8, but there were still no service breaks in the opener.
Swiatek and Alexandrova could not find a way to break each other in the first set, but Swiatek held her nerve better in the tiebreak as the Russian’s errors mounted and the top seed’s powerful shots peaked, and the Pole stole the set.
Things turned around in the second when Alexandrova got the first break of the day with a backhand winner down the line for 2-0, and then raced out to a 5-0 lead from there, and although Swiatek clawed a couple of games back, the Russian held on to level the match at a set apiece.
At 3-3 in the decider, Swiatek, who won both the French and US Opens this year, broke to love for 4-3 and held on to see off the Russian, and secure her place in the final.
“It doesn’t really matter for me if it’s a final, or any other round, I’m just going to give it my all,” Swiatek added.
Krejcikova is also a French Open champion, but for much of her Last 4 match she was out-classed by Rybakina, who struck 10 winners to 6 unforced errors and broke for 5-3 on her way to pocketing the first set.
There were no breaks in the second, and no mini breaks in the pivotal tiebreak, until Krejcikova hit successive forehand winners to claim it and tie the match.
The third set also featured a number of routine early service games, but Krejcikova carved her way past a net-rushing Rybakina with passes and lobs to collect the sole break of the decider and lead 5-4.
In the next game, a forehand winner closed out a love hold, and the match, for Krejcikova.
“It was a really difficult match, I think we both played incredible tennis,” Krejcikova said. “I’m very happy with the way things turned around for me, because I thought that I got very [few] chances.
“I was really happy that I was able to convert them, and that I was able to get the win.”
The Czech captured the Tallinn title last weekend and is on an 8-match winning streak, but Swiatek leads 2-0 in their head-to-head record, coming out on top in Miami and Rome last year.
“It’s amazing what I’ve achieved in the last two weeks, so I feel really happy and really glad with the way I’m performing so far,” she added. “I’m really looking forward to playing the final in front of the Czech fans.”
Rybakina struck 39 winners, including 17 aces, to just 25 unforced errors, but Krejcikova was exceptional behind her first serve, winning 82 percent of those points despite only hitting 2 aces, while both lost serve just twice.