Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Sublime Swiatek on track for glory

It was another stroll in the park for the world No1, who demolished the fifth seed American Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 28 minutes

By Joy Chakravarty

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Iga Swiatek hits a return during her semifinal win over American Coco Gauff. — Photo by Shihab
Iga Swiatek hits a return during her semifinal win over American Coco Gauff. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 11:06 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Feb 2023, 4:47 PM

There are things Iga Swiatek struggles with. Tennis, most definitely, is not one of them.

It was another stroll in the park for the world No1, who demolished the fifth seed American Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 28 minutes to reach the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.

It was the first time Swiatek dropped two games in a set this week.

And by winning four games in the first set, Gauff provided the Polish star with her toughest test in the desert this year.

Nobody was able to get to that scoreline in Doha, where she won last week, or here. Since her fourth-round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, she has dropped just 14 games in six matches.

It was only after she finished her match did her troubles start. She double-faulted on the post-match message and signature on the camera, needing to scribble out her first attempt.

She then struggled to talk during her on-court interview, having lost her voice a couple days ago. And then, it was a below par effort in cutting the cake as Dubai Duty Free celebrated 50 years of WTA.

Every time Swiatek has reached a quarterfinal of a WTA 1000 event, she has gone on to win the title.

And on Saturday, she will have the chance to add a sixth one when she takes on Czech world No30 Barbora Krejcikova, who beat American Jessica Pegula 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 in the second semifinal.

Krejcikova, a runner-up here in 2021, is searching for her first WTA 1000 singles title.

Swiatek, Krejcikova's opponent in the final and a three-time major champion, added another record under her belt, when she became the player with the fewest games dropped en route to secure a place in the WTA-1000 final spot.

The previous record was 10 games and belonged to Serena Williams (2011 Rome).

“I’m pretty happy that tennis is working out, because writing and talking, that’s not my thing right now,” Swiatek said after the match.

“I’m happy that I started both sets well. I think she used her chances to come back and to win a break. But honestly, I felt like with the way I started I could also always get back to the game I played at the beginning. I’m happy that I was solid.”

Gauff put up a much better fight, even though she was broken early twice in the first game. There were several stunning points from the 19-year-old American, including a lunging double-handed passing shot to get her first point in the second set.

However, it was the reliability of Swiatek’s returns that neutralised the big efforts and attacking tennis that her opponent was trying to dish.

“Coco is a great player and I knew it was going to be tough,” said Swiatek, who won all her five previous matches against Gauff in straight sets.

“Especially after last year when we played five times, because you never know if you’re going to see something new or not.

“I was just thinking the usual things. I was just focusing on the technique and I wanted to really be consistent with my tactics, so I’m happy I was so focused. For sure I felt like I had more ups and downs than in my previous rounds here. But honestly, I just felt like I was always coming back in the game during the key points. That is what I have worked on with my coach, and it has worked.”

The final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship is scheduled for Saturday, starting at 7pm.

Results

WOMEN’S SINGLES (SEMIFINALS)

1-Iga Swiatek (POL) beat 5-Coco Gauff (USA) 6-4, 6-2

Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) beat 3-Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-1, 5-7, 6-0

DOUBLES (SEMIFINALS)

Hao Ching-Chan (TPE)/Latisha Chan (TPE) beat 3-Desirae Krawczyk (USA)/Demi Schuurs (NED) 6-1, 4-6, 10-4

Veronika Kudermetova (RUS)/Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) beat 2-Lyudmyla Kichenok (UKR)/Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-5, 6-2


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