Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek is back in the winner's circle, capturing her second career title at the Adelaide International with a dominant 6-2, 6-2 defeat of No.2 seed Belinda Bencic in just 62 minutes.
Swiatek was near-flawless throughout, striking 22 winners and committing a meagre six unforced errors - three in each set. The Pole conceded only six points behind her delivery winning a career best 90.9% of her first serve points (20 out of 22), and was not taken to deuce in any of her own service games.
The result caps a stellar week for Swiatek, who did not drop a set on the way to the trophy - the first WTA title run without the loss of a set since her own Roland Garros route last October. There, the 19-year-old conceded 28 games in seven matches (four per match); this week, she lost 22 games in five matches (4.4 per match). As a result, Swiatek will rise to a new career high of World No.15 on Monday.
"For sure, there is something that clicks," mused Swiatek on the scale of her dominance during her title runs. "Not only in my head but also tennis-wise. I feel pretty good on court. I feel like sometimes I have weeks when everything clicks, and that's just the effect of the work we're doing."
Swiatek has repeatedly stated this year that she is aiming to find consistency on tour - but weeks where she is "in the flow" help with that.
"It's good for me because I can see that I can play good tennis for the whole week," she said. "It wasn't like one time during the French Open. It gives me more confidence that I'm more developed [as a] player and I can play good more often. It just gives me motivation.
"Our goal right now is to have that more often, because I know I can play great tennis. It's just all about planning, aiming for the specific tournament to have the best shape possible."
The serve would be the most glaring difference in the first meeting between the two players. Bencic may have out-aced Swiatek five to four, but the Swiss player paid heavily for eight double faults. Four of those came in the sixth game as Bencic handed the first break of the match over to Swiatek on a platter - a setback from which she would not recover.
Swiatek's own serve had been clicking from the start, and the No.5 seed went from strength to strength in every other area as the final progressed. Her heavy forehand did repeated damage as a first strike, but Swiatek also excelled in longer exchanges, out-manoeuvring Bencic with canny wrong-footing winners and at one point conjuring up a marvellous defensive lob.
Bencic, one of the most tactically astute players on tour, admitted afterwards that she had been at a loss.
"I struggled a lot today with how different she played," said the Swiss player, whose record in finals is now 4-7. "I just couldn't figure out her patterns or her serve or anything at all.
"It's the unpredictable-ness," she continued. "I think she plays everything just little bit different than I'm expecting. So not the usual patterns which you would expect. I think I'm a pretty good anticipator. But today it was a little bit off - of course, thanks to her game.
"Then I think she plays with much more spin and heaviness. Also the balls you think you can reach are just jumping over you. It makes it harder to make a defense, to counterpunch."
Bencic is already planning ahead to her next encounter with Swiatek, though.
"I'm thinking about it," she said. "I would definitely start differently. I'm not sure in which direction yet, but something I would change. I would not go to the match [with] the same tactics. I'm not sure which other tactics to use, but for sure I would come up with something when I would be able to go on the court again.
Swiatek has needed only three tournaments to collect her first trophy following her maiden Grand Slam crown. Only seven active first-time major champions needed fewer, and only four of those did it at 500/Premier/Tier II level or higher: Venus Williams (one, Stanford 2000), Victoria Azarenka (one, Doha 2012), Simona Halep (two, Montréal 2018) and Ashleigh Barty (one, Birmingham 2019). Swiatek now owns a 9-1 record in professional finals, having been 7-0 at ITF level prior to her WTA Tour breakthrough. Her sole loss came to Polona Hercog at Lugano 2019.
The doubles title went to No.3 seeds Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk, who defeated the unseeded Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani 6-7(4), 6-3, [10-3]. The Chilean-American duo, who were runners-up at Roland Garros last year, picked up their third WTA trophy together - and first at 500 level - following Gstaad 2018 and Istanbul 2020.
Carter and Stefani have reached their first two 500-level finals in 2021 - the American-Brazilian pair were also runners-up in Abu Dhabi - but are still seeking their first title since Lexington last year.