Warsaw | Swiatek kicks off quest for home title, as Watson and Burrage also win openers in Poland

Britain’s Heather Watson and Jodie Burrage made it into the Last 16 at the BNP Paribas Warsaw Open in Poland on Tuesday, alongside World No 1 Iga Swiatek and 2nd-seeded Karolina Muchova.

Definitely, my season makes more sense now. Last year it wasn’t easy to get back to clay for just a few days. Now this tournament is ideal for a warm-up before the US Open Swing. It’s great to have outdoor hard courts in Warsaw finally, I’ll be training here throughout the year as well. Iga Świątek

Watson upset 3rd-seeded and World No 36 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, 7-5 6-2, while, earlier in the day, Burrage, the British No 2, came from a set down to beat Indian qualifier Ankita Raina, 4-6 6-4 7-6(4).

24-year old Burrage, the World No 98, had to claw her way back to take the match after a 2 hour 37 minute battle.

The 9th game in the second set saw the tide change in the Briton’s favour when she broke the 200th ranked Indian to 15 to go up 5-4.

The decider saw both struggling to hold serve., but Burrage took a 4-1 lead, only for Raina to pull back and level proceedings at 4-4.

The gritty 30-year-old then broke the Londoner twice when the latter served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 before Burrage finally prevailed in the breaker.

Burrage will play Italy’s Lucrezia Stefanini next, who took out 18-year old Linda Fruhvirtova, the 7th seed, 6-1 7-6(4), while Watson faces Belarusian Yuliya Hatouka, ranked 240, a 6-4 3-6 7-5 winner over Jessika Ponchet from France.

Jodie Burrage came from a set down to beat qualifier Ankita Raina, prevailing in the 3rd-set breaker in Warsaw

Michał Jędrzejewski / BNP Paribas Warsaw Open

Later, Swiatek returned to match play for the first time since her Wimbledon quarter-final defeat to Ukrainian wild-card Elina Svitolina, and the stands surrounding the centre court were packed to capacity as the Pole tries to add the Warsaw WTA 250 hard event title to her growing portfolio.

Swiatek kicked off her campaign on home soil with a straight-sets win over Uzbekistan’s Nigina Abduraimova, ranked 182, but it was by no means plain sailing, although the 22-year old Pole prevailed 6-4 6-3 well enough after an hour and 35 minutes to get herself back to winning ways.

Seeking her 4th title of 2023 at this week’s WTA 250 event in her home country, Swiatek is making her second appearance here, having lost last year in the quarters to eventual champion Caroline Garcia when the event was played on clay.

“For sure, it’s pretty special tournament. It’s not an easy one to play, a little bit different stress than usual, but I’m happy for the chance to play in front of Polish crowds,” Swiatek said afterwards. “First rounds, they aren’t easy, and anybody who knows a little bit about tennis, they’ll tell you that it’s a little bit harder to player at home.

“Coming from grass courts … for sure, I need to work on some stuff, but hopefully, I’m going to play better and better every day.”

The 29-year-old Uzbek was playing a top 10 player for just the 3rd time in her career, and the first time in 11 years, but despite that, she came out playing fearless tennis, with big-serving and surprisingly good defence.

“It wasn’t easy, first rounds are always tricky,” added Swiatek. “I’m happy that I’m gonna play another match here. It’s a special feeling, playing with the Polish crowd, my hometown.”

Swiatek needed 4 match points to advance, as Abduraimova held serve from 0-40 down trailing 5-1 in set two, and broke the Pole’s serve in the next game before holding her own serve.

The top seed broke 5 times in the match, twice in the first set and 3 times in the second, in a contest that was tighter than the scoreline might suggest.

Eight of the 18 games went past deuce, including 5 of the 9 played in the second set, but, from 4-4 in the opening set, Swiatek won 8 of the last 11 games of the match.

Abduraimova double-faulted 10 times, which did not help her cause, and it did help Swiatek earn 13 total break points.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek kicked off her campaign on home soil with a straight-sets win over Uzbekistan’s Nigina Abduraimova on Tuesday

Michał Jędrzejewski / BNP Paribas Warsaw Open

The tournament switched from clay to hard courts this year to be a more natural warm-up event ahead of the US Open Swing.

“Definitely, my season makes more sense now,” said the 4-time Grand Slam champion. “Last year it wasn’t easy to get back to clay for just a few days.

“Now this tournament is ideal for a warm-up before the US Open Swing. It’s great to have outdoor hard courts in Warsaw finally, I’ll be training here throughout the year as well.”

The Pole readily admits that winning her 4th Grand Slam trophy in Paris in June was the toughest challenge of her career so far, coming so close to losing the final more than once in the deciding set, but she ultimately rallied to win against a very inspired Muchova.

It proved a very pivotal win for Swiatek, who had struggled with confidence for much of the year.

“Winning Roland Garros was kind of my goal, so I’m immensely proud of that and very happy about it,” she said in a recent interview. “In women’s tennis, it’s been a long time since anyone managed to defend the title in the Grand Slam tournament.

“I must admit that there was a lot of pressure, the tournament was not easy. In the first matches, despite the fact that I had control in most situations, I felt that I was not playing my best tennis, that I had to refine it, it had to get going during the tournament. I also struggled with pressure off the court.”

The crucial wins came later at the event, especially against Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, who pushed Swiatek hard, but she prevailed to go all the way.

“That’s why I’m so proud that we made it and I won this tournament, especially looking at this final and semi-finals,” Swiatek continued. “Tiebreak with Haddad Maia, return in the third set with Muchova. These are situations where I actually had to show my heart, and I’m glad I did.”

Swiatek, who is now eyeing a second US Open title, is one of 3 Polish players in the draw this week, but she is the only one through to the 2nd-round after wild-cards Maja Chwalinska and Weronika Ewald lost their 1st-round matches to Laura Siegemund and Rebecca Sramkova, respectively.

In the 2nd-round, the 4-time Grand Slam champion will play either American Claire Liu or Yue Yuan from China, whose match had to be postponed until Wednesday with the scores tied at 4-all in the first set.

Karolina Muchova, the No 2 seed, came from a set down to beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich to open her campaign in Warsaw

Michał Jędrzejewski / BNP Paribas Warsaw Open

Meanwhile, Muchova, the Czech French Open finalist, faced the experienced Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who is a dangerous floater in the draw despite a somewhat lacklustre year.

“I think I started the match pretty well, 4-1 lead,” Muchova, the World No 16 said afterwards. “Then few mistakes, I started to hesitate a bit, she levelled up the game as well.

“In the second set, I was just trying to hold my serve and stay in the game. It got to the tiebreak, which I think I played great.”

The Czech managed to beat Sasnovich, 4-6 7-6(0) 6-3, with the key moment coming when she pocketed the breaker without losing a point.

“I think, if you get far in the French Open, everything is so fast,” Muchova reflected about how her life had changed after becoming a Grand Slam finalist. “In three weeks you have Wimbledon, then we are here playing on hard courts.

“There wasn’t really a time when I could take some rest and soak it up. I get a bit more recognition now, as well as a little more pressure,” she added.

Elsewhere, another Czech, 18-year old Linda Noskova, the 8th seed, needed 3 sets to overcome qualifier Jana Fett from Croatia, 4-6 7-6(4) 6-3.

It was a full house for Iga Swiatek's 1st-round match against Nigina Abduraimova on Tuesday

Michał Jędrzejewski / BNP Paribas Warsaw Open



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