Swiatek shakes off early nerves to reach French Open semifinals
Polish player was shaky in the early games but then stormed past the 11th seed and will play Russia’s Daria Kasatkina for a place in the final
Paris - World No 1 Iga Swiatek shook off early nerves to extend her winning series to a staggering 33 as she beat American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-2 to book her spot in the French Open semifinals on Wednesday.
Swiatek, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is on the longest unbeaten run in the women’s tour since Serena Williams bagged 34 victories in succession in 2013.
The Polish player, gunning for a second title in three years at Roland Garros, appeared a tad shaky in the initial games before marching past the 11th seed to set up a meeting with Russian Daria Kasatkina for a place in Saturday’s final.
The 2020 champion is bidding to become the fourth player since 2000 to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup multiple times after Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
“She was playing very low, so to be good I had to be low on my legs. It was the key and I’m pretty happy I was playing with a good dynamic to push her back a little bit,” Swiatek said on a sunbathed but windswept court Philippe Chatrier.
“Sometimes stress is a positive thing, it’s going to make you more active and more tense so you can play a good performance. So I tried to use it that way.”
Two days after dropping her first set of the tournament, Swiatek got off to a fast start, stealing Pegula’s serve with a crosscourt forehand winner.
But unforced errors immediately crept up in her game and she was immediately broken back and showed early signs of nerves.
The Pole, however, went up a break again to lead 4-3 before holding and setting up set points in the ninth game. Pegula did her a favour by sending a routine forehand wide on the second.
Another of those gave Swiatek a break for 3-1 in the second set and she kept her grip, only squandering three match points before wrapping it up on Pegula’s serve with a booming backhand winner down the line.
Earlier Kasatkina beat fellow Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-4 7-6(5) to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.
Kudermetova, playing in front of a sparse crowd, peppered the vast Philippe Chatrier stands with the ball and ultimately paid the price for a scrappy performance with 50 unforced errors — double that of Kasatkina.
“You could see that the match was a really nervous one and tight, especially the tie break,” said Kasatkina, who missed four consecutive match points before finally sealing the win.
“It’s a very important win for me and I am happy to be in the semis for the first time. I tried to forget about the games I had lost. It is so mental but am happy that I was able to keep it.”
Kasatkina has not yet dropped a set in the tournament.
Both players were competing as neutral athletes after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. They will not be competing at Wimbledon later this month, however, after the tournament banned all Russian and Belarusian players from participating.
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