San Diego | Swiatek sails into semi-finals

World No 1 Iga Swiatek notched up her 62nd match win and bagged her 20th bagel set of the season when she cruised past 4th-seeded Coco Gauff, 6-0 6-3, in 65 minutes to reach her tour-leading 11th semi-final at the San Diego Open on Friday, where she will face the American’s doubles partner, Jessica Pegula, while Donna Vekic and Danielle Collins line up in the second last 4 contest.

We always play great, physical matches, so I'm looking forward to playing Jessica [Pegula] I'm waiting to see the sun here, because I'm still not very tan. I'm pretty happy that we're going to play against each other because it's a test for me of where my level is because she's really, really solid. Iga Świątek

Swiatek, a runner-up last week at Ostrava, is looking for her 11th career WTA title, and her 8th of the year, after winning at Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and the US and French Opens.

“I just kept my focus, and I’m happy that I stayed composed tonight,” Swiatek said. “It was one of those matches where I felt in control from the first point.”

18-year old Gauff began with a double-fault on the opening point, and the result was never in doubt as Swiatek took control with her relentless, sharp-angled aggression in a rematch of this year’s French Open singles final that was won by the 21-year-old from Poland, 6-1 6-3.

Played in mild, overcast conditions, this match was a 65-minute contest and Swiatek’s 4th straight win over the teenager, whom she dominated from the outset, breaking 3 times to lead 5-0, and saving 2 break points in the final game before holding to claim the opener after just 29 minutes.

Having captured the first 8 games, Swiatek broke Gauff 4 times in a row before the American won her first game, holding serve at 2-1 in the second.

The 21-year old’s dominance included nearly error-free groundstrokes that forced Gauff into a total of 26 unforced errors, while the Pole broke to open and close the second set for the win.

“I’ve lost to her so many times, and I just didn’t have it today,” Gauff said. “Each time I play her, I learn a lot, like that I overplayed on certain shots which caused me to make more errors.”

Coco Gauff (L) endured her 4th consecutive loss to World No 1 Iga Swiatek in San Diego, and has yet to pick up a set

© Michael Owens/Getty Images

Swiatek finished the match with 13 winners to 9 unforced errors and broke Gauff 5 times, while the American struck 17 winners to her 26 unforced errors, and could not convert on the 3 break-point chances she earned.

Her decision to play San Diego right after a physically and emotionally tough week in Ostrava surprised many, but Swiatek said she wanted to see how she would react to the quick turn-around and change in timezone and conditions.

She is passing the test with flying colours, despite being handed a tough draw, getting past Zheng Qinwen from China in 3 sets in her opening match, and now following up with a statement performance against Gauff.

The 3-time Grand Slam champion has advanced to a Saturday semi-final against 4th-seeded Pegula, who defeated 18th-ranked US compatriot Madison Keys, 6-4 7-5.

“We always play great, physical matches, so I’m looking forward to playing Jessica,” said Swiatek, who admits to lingering jet lag since flying from the Czech Republic to San Diego last Sunday. “I’m waiting to see the sun here, because I’m still not very tan.

“I’m pretty happy that we’re going to play against each other because it’s a test for me of where my level is because she’s really, really solid.

“Our matches are always physical and really tight. Even though, sometimes, the scores are one way, you can see, during the games, we always have deuces and any point can matter.”

Swiatek holds a 3-1 record against Pegula, having lost their first meeting in 2019 at Washington, but the Pole won this year at the Miami semi-finals and US and French Open quarter-finals.

“I’ve played [Swiatek] so often that I kind of know what to expect,” Pegula said. “She plays super athletic, aggressive, defends really well.

“She does everything at a really high level. She plays a little bit different than the girls and, sometimes, that can be the difference. You’re not used to playing someone like her.

“I’d like to say, maybe, it’s better playing her at the end of the year, but I don’t know. We’ll see how the match goes.”

Jessica Pegula won the all-American contest with Madison Keys to reach the semi-finals in Southern California

© Michael Owens/Getty Images

Earlier, 27-year old Pegula took out unseeded Keys in an all-American match-up to book her Last 4 slot, the first meeting between the two.

It has been a career break-through week for Pegula, having qualified for her first WTA Finals in both singles and doubles with victories earlier in the week.

The American No 1 won 76 percent of her first-service points, and saved 4 of the 5 break points she faced as she moved into her 4th semi-final of the season.

Making frequent forays to the net, Pegula tested herself against Keys’ passing shots, and the unseeded American periodically found patches of fiery groundstrokes, particularly on her way to a 4-2 lead in the second set.

Pegula, though, cracked sturdy, well-placed returns to pull herself back to level footing and, after erasing a break point in the last game of the match, she converted her 4th match point when a Keys return found the net.

Donna Vekic upset Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets at the San Diego Open

© Michael Owens/Getty Images

In the other semi-final, Croatia’s Vekic upset 3rd-seeded Sabalenka from Belarus, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1, and takes on another American in Collins, who pulled off an upset of her own in beating 2nd-seeded Badosa from Spain, 7-6(5) 6-4.

Vekic had to come through qualifying this week, and she has been in top form once she hit the main draw, beating 3 Top 25 players in succession, with wins over Maria Sakkari and Karolina Pliskova preceding her victory over Sabalenka.

Despite the loss, the Belarusian is still in the hunt for one of the 5 remaining singles spots at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth.

Vekic won nearly three-quarters of her first-service points as she held on for another win over Sabalenka.

By beating the World No 5, Vekic notches the tenth Top 10 win of her career, with her ninth Top 10 win coming against Sakkari in the 1st-round.

Although she was 2 points away from a straight-sets win, when Sabalenka came back from 5-4 down in the second-set tiebreak to push the match into a decider, Vekic regrouped in the third, where she converted 2 of her 3 break points while saving the lone break point she faced.

Vekic, who improved her record over Sabalenka to 5-1 after 2 hours and 37 minutes to reach her first semi-final of the year at the WTA 500 event in Southern California, and will face Collins for a spot in her first WTA 500 final since 2019 St Petersburg.

Against Badosa, Collins jumped out to a 4-1 in the first set before thwarting a furious come-back by the Spaniard.

Both squandered chances to serve out the set before Collins edged the breaker, 7-5.

The American took a medical timeout during the sit-down between sets, but kept her focus early in the second before surging ahead from 2-3, winning 14 of the next 18 points to earn her chance to serve out the win.

Collins saved 2 break points in the final game before finding the line-painting accuracy that boosted her into the Australian Open final in January.

“I think today is just an example of no matter how well you’re playing, no one is immune to having bad days,” Collins said. “I was definitely working through some things on court and it was really challenging at times, especially playing against Paula.

“She doesn’t give you a lot of free points and was making me work for everything.”

Collins leads the head-to-head 1-0 against Vekic, and is bidding to make her first final since Melbourne.

She also remains in the hunt for a qualifying spot at the WTA Finals, having come into San Diego at No 17 on the Race Leaderboard.

“It’s great seeing Donna back healthy and playing really good tennis,” Collins added. “She has a big game and a lot of weapons. I’m just going to have to try my best.”



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