Swiatek claims victory over Kerber in Indian Wells
For the third time in a row this fortnight, Iga Swiatek found herself off the hook at the Open BNP Paribas. And for the third time in a row, the No. 3 seed from Poland found a way to come back strong for a victory from behind.
Swiatek maneuvered to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over former world No. 1 and fellow Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber of Germany in their first meeting.
Not only did Swiatek drop a set again, but she also had to recover from a breakdown in the third set before booking a place in Indian Wells’ first quarter-final of her career.
Winner’s words: “It was really difficult to play against her,” Swiatek said. “She’s such an experienced player.
“At the end I think I made the right decisions at the right time, at the right times in the game. I’m quite happy with that because in the important moments in the second and third [sets], I was earning points. That’s the most important thing.”
“Obviously you learn from that first set and you can use it. I think I’m doing it pretty well. But of course my goal is to win every set. In my next game I’ll be ready to win that First.”
On a roll: 2020 Roland Garros champion Swiatek took 2 hours and 8 minutes to knock out 15th-seeded Kerber, who has three Grand Slam titles to her name and was a BNP Paribas Open runner-up in 2019 (falling past Bianca Andreescu in this final).
As she had in her previous two matches this week against Anhelina Kalinina and Clara Tauson, Swiatek had to recover from a one-set deficit. But Swiatek prevailed to extend his winning streak to eight straight wins – his most consecutive wins since last year’s clay season.
This current winning streak came at WTA 1000 events, where she is still undefeated this season. At the first WTA 1000 event of the year, Swiatek won the title in Doha, beating Anett Kontaveit in the final.
Swiatek leads the overall victory tour in 2022, with 17 match wins this season. This latest victory over Kerber is also his 15th career victory against a Top 20 player, and his fourth against this group so far this year.
Match moments: After an early exchange of breaks, Kerber took the lead in the first set with a break for 3-2 after two consecutive double faults from Swiatek. Kerber let a 5-2 double-break lead come back to 5-4, but the German held on to take a one-set lead.
In the second set, a streak of five straight breaks gave Swiatek a 4-2 lead, and the Pole ended that streak with a towering love hold to take a solid 5-2 lead. In the next match, Swiatek drew errors from Kerber to land another break of serve and tie the game.
Swiatek started the third set with two more love holds, but Kerber still struck first in the decider, slamming a backhand winner to break for 3-2. However, Swiatek regrouped and finished a rally with a forehand winner on a break point in the very next game, reclaiming parity.
That unlocked a dominant run for Swiatek, who held on to love again, then earned another Kerber serve break to lead 5-3. A non-returnable serve closed the match in the following game, and Swiatek had once again managed a comeback in three sets.
The keys await you in the quarter-finals: Swiatek will now face No. 25 seed Madison Keys of the United States in the elite eight. Keys beat British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-1, 6-4 in just over an hour to clinch a place in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in her career.
Highlights: Keys def. Stinger
In their previous encounter, Keys beat Dart 6-3, 7-6(2) in the first round of Melbourne Summer Set 2 in January. Keys had it easier at home, facing and erasing a solitary break point in the Indian Wells clash.
“I think I made a very conscious decision to try to put myself in the best position possible on the tennis court and to remember why I started playing tennis, just to enjoy that part,” said Keys said afterwards. “It’s just, I think, obviously translation.”
Keys won 81% of the points behind her first serve and beat the world No. 122 three times on the day. After a quick first set, Dart battled it out at 4-4 in the second set, but Keys beat the qualifier at love in that match en route to setting up a showdown with Swiatek.
Both Keys and Swiatek reached the semi-finals of this year’s first Grand Slam, the 2022 Australian Open, but lost to Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins respectively.
Swiatek won his only previous meeting with Keys in straight sets en route to the title on the clay courts of Rome last year.
Sakkari passes injured Saville
Number 6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece advanced to the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time after Australian qualifier Daria Saville withdrew from their match midway through the first set due to a left thigh injury.
Former Top 20 player Saville had pulled off a resurgent event after returning from Achilles surgery last year, earning her first Top 10 victory since 2018 against Ons Jabeur, then following it up with another upset from Elise Mertens to reach the round of 16.
But an ailing Saville couldn’t continue his run and retired after a medical time-out off the pitch as Sakkari led 4-1.
Sakkari had to save three break points just to open the game, surviving a grueling 13 minutes to hold 1-0. But the Greek took charge of the matter by breaking 2-0 in another extended game, before Saville was unfortunately forced to stop the game.