Swiatek's top-10 streak reaches 13; Garcia beats Coco Gauff
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek performed so well against nearly every opponent all season that it should come as no surprise she's been perfect when facing the best of the best since early January.
Swiatek extended her winning streak against opponents ranked in the top 10 to 13 matches — the longest such single-season run in 15 years — and opened her bid for a first WTA Finals title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Daria Kasatkina in round-robin play Tuesday night.
Swiatek has asserted herself as a dominant force in women's tennis, claiming two Grand Slam titles and eight tournament trophies in 2022. Her 65-8 match record leads the tour, too. That includes a 5-0 mark against Kasatkina this year.
“Sometimes, against players like that, there comes a little bit more doubt,” said Swiatek, who will try to make it 14 in a row against top-10 foes when she takes on No. 6 Caroline Garcia, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over 18-year-old American Coco Gauff.
“But then it's a good thing to remember my strengths, and I'm kind of leaning on that and remembering that I learned a lot throughout this whole season," said Swiatek, who put together a 24-5 edge in winners against Kasatkina. "I can use that experience and there's no reason why I would play worse than in practice.”
This one was pretty much over at the outset, when Swiatek raced to a 3-0 edge. She quickly adapted to the indoor hard court set up at Dickies Arena, and that start, she said, “gave me confidence for the rest of the match.”
Said Kasatkina, who went 0 for 3 on break chances: “The margin was too big” at the beginning of each set.
“I knew it was going to be hard to balance being aggressive and not making a lot of mistakes, because she can reset the rallies,” Swiatek said. “I'm pretty happy that at the beginning, I was able to be proactive but, on the other hand, really solid.”
She is 13-1 against members of the top 10 this year, with the lone loss coming against then-No. 1 Ash Barty on Jan. 8.
Barty's retirement at age 25 in March allowed Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland, to climb atop the rankings.
No. 4 Gauff, the runner-up to Swiatek at the French Open in June, will now face No. 8 Kasatkina, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal in Paris before losing to — yes, you guessed it — Swiatek.
A year ago at the WTA Finals, Swiatek's debut in the season-closing tournament for the top eight women ended after the group stage. Garcia also has made it to this event just once before: She was eliminated in the semifinals in 2017.
“The past couple of years have been very rough," said Garcia, at 29 the oldest player in the field at Fort Worth. "I'm really, really happy to be back. Five years is quite a long time in a career, but you try to manage as best you can.”
Garcia is also the only player at the WTA Finals who has defeated Swiatek this year, doing so in front of a partisan crowd at the Poland Open in July.
“It's definitely a good experience to take,” Garcia said. “To be aggressive is probably the best to try to beat her. When she has time to do her things, it's very complicated. She changes direction so well. She moves very well on court; with her sliding, she looks like she covers two courts.”
Swiatek has earned the same number of titles this season as the other seven women combined.
That doesn't mean she is only thinking about collecting hardware.
She often practices visualization before heading out on court, although she said she did not do that Tuesday ahead of facing Kasatkina.
“I'm not the kind of person who’s going to visualize myself with trophies. I don't think it's going to lead anywhere,” Swiatek said. “So usually, it's (about) technique and perfect preparation for the shot.”
She was grateful for the fans waving the Polish flag or wearing the country's red and white colors, but she also noticed the thousands of empty seats in the venue, saying in her on-court interview: “Hopefully we’re going to see a full house soon.”
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