Simona Halep completed a thrilling day of tennis on Sunday with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against Iga Swiatek, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 1 hour and 50 minutes to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fifth time.
The No. 2-seeded Halep avenged a loss to Swiatek this past October at this same stage at the French Open en route to the 19-year-old’s first Grand Slam title.
In what was Halep’s 100th Grand Slam victory, she sets up another showdown against Serena Williams. It will be their first meeting since Halep defeating Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
"[Halep] is a player that she doesn't like to lose twice, so we knew that she's gonna come hard and want the revenge," Darren Cahill, Halep's coach, said of the upcoming encounter afterward.
In the opening set, Swiatek saved the first two break points of the match at 3-3 with clean winners and then rolled, taking 10 of the last 11 points for the early lead.
But Halep went into lockdown mode. After committing 10 unforced errors in the opening set, she had just three in the second and four in the third.
Afterward, Halep expanded on adjusting away from her initial game plan.
"I thought before the match that I have to be a little bit more aggressive than Paris," she said. "In Paris I [was] very far back, and my ball didn't go through the court. So I thought that it's a better chance to go and hit. But then I saw that I do some mistakes. ... I don't like to do easy mistakes. And then I just step back a little bit. I did a step back, and I wanted just to open the court more to have more time and to roll the ball better. So I did that, and that's why I could win."
In the decider, the 15th-seeded Swiatek searching to find her full range again, ordered a coffee down a break at the first changeover and immediately leveled the match at 2-2. But in the ensuing game, Swiatek was broken again.
Swiatek struck the ball more fluently in the third but was undone by 19 unforced errors. Halep, the 2018 runner-up in Australia, focusing on deep, heavy, central balls and allowed Swiatek neither short balls nor angles to work with.
The last game was perhaps Halep's finest of the match: With Swiatek threatening, Halep produced a pair of impressive backhands and defense to hold at love.
Halep said she had sensed Swiatek's form returning.
"I felt that she was playing better, and she was more focused than the beginning of the set," Halep told reporters. "She didn't give up a point, which makes the life tougher during the match, but I did the same thing, and I'm happy that I could be a little bit stronger in the end."
Halep and Williams will meet Tuesday.
"You know, it's all-encompassing when you play somebody like her, and it's why such a great challenge, because she got a chance couple years ago to play her in a Wimbledon final," Cahill said. "That was massive for Simona to get over that hurdle. So she'll go into this match with belief, but the execution is something that depends on the day.
"And she will have belief that she can execute but she has to go out there and play as confidently as she did in the last two sets of this match, play aggressively, have that ability to try to push Serena off the baseline as much as she can."