Second seed Iga Swiatek cruised into the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Sunday, dropping just one game against Veronika Kudermetova, while Elina Svitolina, the No 4 seed, survived an onslaught from Sorana Cirstea, and Victoria Azarenka took out 7th-seeded Petra Kvitova in straight sets.
It was a very tough match today, and I was fighting and trying to find my game. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I wish I could play a little bit better in the first set, I had chances to grab that set, but unfortunately it didn't play the way I wanted. I had to fight for every point, and Sorana played a great match, I think. I'm happy that I could win today. Elina Svitolina
Also through to the 4th round are Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Emma Raducanu’s conqueror, who added Simona Halep to her growing list of upsets, and Leylah Fernandez, victor over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets.
A year to the day since she won her maiden major title at the French Open, Swiatek delivered a masterclass against Russia’s Kudermetova, the 25th seed, dropping just 3 of her first serve points and never facing a break point in the 54 minutes she spent on court.
The 20-year old Pole fired 5 aces, and 19 winners to only 7 unforced errors against the Russian, who could not get any kind of foothold on the match, and won, 6-1 6-0.
“I was just feeling pretty confident,” Swiatek said on court after the match. “Again, as in my second round, my tactics worked pretty well.
“I just wanted to change the rhythm sometimes so she can get a chance to sometimes miss and, in some points, be offensive so she can feel the pressure.
“But basically, I wanted to make a gift for my psychologist because usually when I lose there is some drama. So let’s just say she has the day off today.”
Swiatek now faces 24th seed Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia for a place in the quarter-finals, who had a bigger battle on her hands but came through against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, 6-3 2-6 6-3.
After the win, Swiatek told reporters she would be donating $50,000 of her prize money to a mental health non-profit in honour of World Mental Health Day.
“Mental health support, it’s always been like a close topic for me, so I want to, for the first time, do something [in] that direction to help someone, some people,” Swiatek added.
Ostapenko used her audacious power to get past Putintseva’s all-court craftiness, using strong serving to edge the contest, landing 70.8% of her first deliveries to prevent the Kazakh few chances to pounce on her second serve.
A title run on the clay in Budapest ended a two-year drought for Putintseva, who came into Indian Wells off a run to the semi-finals in Portoroz and the final at the Astana Open.
She opened the match with a break but could not hold on to her 2-0 lead as Ostapenko found her range off the ground and powered her way through 4 consecutive games to seal the set.
Putintseva began the second set with yet another 2-0 lead, but this time she refused to give Ostapenko a foothold in the set, breaking the Latvian 3 times to force a decider.
Ostapenko turned the tables by jumping out to a 2-0 lead and built it to an unassailable 4-1 advantage, although Putintseva mounted a brief comeback by closing the gap to 2-4, but the Latvia shut the door after saving 2 break points to hold to 5-2.
From there, the reigning Eastbourne champion fired one final forehand winner to break Putintseva for the win after 1 hour and 53 minutes.
Earlier in the day, Svitolina, who won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, saved 12 of the 16 break point opportunities Cirstea set up in their 2 hour 32 minute contest, and had to fight back from 4-2 down in the 3rd set to survive against the Romanian No 32 seed, 4-6 6-4 7-6(3).
“It was a very tough match today, and I was fighting and trying to find my game,” Svitolina said, after the tight match. “It was a bit of a rollercoaster.
“I wish I could play a little bit better in the first set, I had chances to grab that set, but unfortunately it didn’t play the way I wanted.
“I had to fight for every point, and Sorana played a great match, I think. I’m happy that I could win today.”
While each broke serve 4 times, Cirstea let 12 of her 16 chances go begging, and Svitolina converted 4 of her 5 opportunities.
Cirstea truck 45 winners to 42 unforced errors, but in the decisive tiebreak, it was Svitolina who reigned supreme as she kept her hopes alive for a spot at the year-ending Akron WTA Finals in which the Top 8 players qualify.
Svitolina takes on 19th seed Jessica Pegula in the fourth round after the American ousted Italy’s lucky loser Jasmine Paolini, 6-4 6-1.
Two Belarusians will play each other in the last 16, after Azarenka scored a technical knockout of Kvitova and Sasnovich upset Halep on Sunday.
In the contest between two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka and two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, it was the Belarusian No 27 seed who prevailed over the 7th-seeded Czech, 7-5 6-4, after an hour and 49 minutes.
“I think it was a good match,” she said later. “It was very close, which I knew it was going to be, going to be kind of hard to catch rhythm.
“It was a lot of firsts, whoever gets the opportunity to kind of move the ball first, be aggressive. I wasn’t expecting too many big rallies.
“I thought it was good. I’m happy with the way I closed out the both sets.
“I think those were important moments. I took those opportunities into my own hands.”
It was, however, Sasnovich who caused the upset of the day, taking out Halep, the 11th seed and 2015 champion, 7-5 6-4, after an hour and 38 minutes, backing up her second-round win over US Open champion Raducanu in the 2nd round.
Sasnovich, who peaked at World No 30 in 2018, went for broke on many points, and the tactic paid off as she won a tremendous 82 percent of first-service points in the affair, and knocked off 22 winners to Halep’s 16.
The former World No 1 was making her 10th appearance at Indian Wells this year, and although she had 5 fewer unforced errors than Sasnovich, it was not enough for the Romanian, as she only converted 2 of her 6 break points while also dropping her serve 4 times.
Sasnovich, currently ranked 100, was broken twice in the course of the match but she also broke 4 times to ensure a straight-set victory for herself and next up for her is compatriot Azarenka.
The last round-of-16 battle in the lower half of the draw at Indian Wells will be played between Shelby Rogers and 23rd seed Leylah Fernandez.
The American sailed past another Romanian, Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-0 6-2, while the Canadian outplayed Pavlyuchenkova in the last match of the day to clinch a 5-7 6-3 6-4 win after 2 hours and 41 minutes of play.
Fernandez, the US Open runner-up, fought off a break point in the 8th game of the 3rd set for a 5-3 lead and although the 9th-seeded Russian held for 5-4, the Canadian served out the match in which she had trailed by a set and a break.
She is winning in doubles, too, with partner Coco Gauff, reaching the quarter-finals.