Indian Wells (USA), March 15 (SocialNews.XYZ) World No.1 Iga Swiatek moved one step closer to a successful title defense at the Indian Wells Masters after defeating 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round, setting the quarterfinal clash with Romania's Sorana Cirstea, here.
In back-to-back matches against Grand Slam champions, Swiatek's confidence showed in her match management. Her ability at just 21 years old to feel out her opponents and then suddenly break away and flip a set or tiebreak on its head is second to none.
In her wins over Bianca Andreescu in the third round and Raducanu in the fourth round, one could see how Swiatek's surges left her opponents looking to the sky with demoralized grins. Andreescu, by her own admission, played a great match. But Swiatek slammed the door in the second-set tiebreak by playing seven perfect points.
Similarly, Raducanu played a solid match. She did well to keep pace with Swiatek early, matching the World No.1 from the baseline and defending valiantly from the corners. But a Raducanu double-fault while serving down 3-2, 0-30 gave Swiatek her best chance to break and the game's best returner took her opportunity immediately.
Riding a run of 9 straight points, Swiatek broke open the match to lead 5-2 and closed out the set two games later on Tuesday night.
"Overall I feel like physically she is much further ahead than I am at this moment. I think I was able to stay competitive in the beginning of the first set. I think the first three games took over 20 minutes. And we were having some pretty epic rallies, and I actually think my defense got better," Raducanu was quoted as saying by WTA.
"But that meant me running. I think that she just kind of ground me down a bit," she added.
With a set in hand, Swiatek dominated the second set. With a clear game plan of holding steady and breaking Raducanu down with patient, prolonged rallies, Swiatek closed out the match after 1 hour and 24 minutes.
"I always want to finish [points] as fast as possible if I have a chance, but for sure I know that sometimes it's not going to be possible here. I'm pretty sure that some of these shots would be winners in different conditions, but here the ball is bouncing and it's slower," Swiatek said.
"I'm always pretty good in defense. I knew that I can't rush it and I can't be not patient, so I just stayed solid and I wanted to choose the right directions. It was more about that, not the speed and forcing everything to play a winner," she added.
Swiatek finished with 22 winners and 14 unforced errors, while converting 4 of 10 break points. Raducanu was held to 9 winners to 22 unforced errors, going 0 for 2 on break points.
Bidding to make her second consecutive WTA 1000 semifinal, the 21-year old Swiatek will face Cirstea for a second time in her career. It will be the first meeting since their dramatic three-set duel at the Australian Open last year. There, Swiatek rallied from a set down to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the Round of 16.
"It was an amazing match, and usually I don't say that when I lose a match. Since then she just took off. She's been playing amazing," Cirstea said.
"She's such a complete player, she moves great, she doesn't have any flaws in her game. She's, from my point of view, the best mover we have. It's really hard to find a weakness in her game. I like Iga, I think she's the sweetest girl. She's such a wonderful role model," she added.
Cirstea booked her spot in her first Indian Wells quarterfinals with a big upset, knocking out No.5 Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
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