Iga Swiatek rose to the occasion in more ways than one in a second-round victory over Leylah Fernandez on Thursday at the Adelaide International 1.
Losing just three games in a 6-1, 6-2 victory, the No.5 seed and defending champion extended her winning streak at the event to seven matches
After the match, Swiatek revealed the first meeting with Fernandez was not the only thing weighing on her mind, telling Barbara Schett-Eagle in her on-court interview: "I was in the mood, and that was great because I was pretty stressed since ... I was playing against a younger girl, which is pretty new for me. She's pretty talented and she's a Grand Slam finalist, so I knew it was going to be tricky."
From 1-1 in the first set — two games that stretched past deuce — Swiatek largely cruised. She hit 17 winners to just eight unforced errors, and never faced a break point in 74 minutes.
"I felt really confident," Swiatek added, "and I'm pretty happy that I could finish it really quickly and I didn't let go of focus."
She needed that focus down the stretch, as it took five match points to put Fernandez away. The Canadian saved three in her last service game, putting another hold on the board from 0-40 at 6-1, 5-1.
A streak of straight sets: Swiatek didn't lose a set in Adelaide last year en route to winning her second career title, and her sets won streak at the event has now reached 14.
Give her a (left) hand: With the win, Swiatek also improved to 14-3 against left-handers at pro level. She's won her last six matches against southpaws dating back to a 2020 loss to Arantxa Rus in Rome, just prior to her breakthrough victory at Roland Garros.
"I've never had a problem [playing against left-handers]," Swiatek said. "I had a few opponents who were lefties when I was younger, so I guess on every level I've had chances to play against lefties and I don't mind it, really."
A right-hander awaits Swiatek next, as she'll face two-time Australian Open champion and former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Aussie wildcard Priscilla Hon, 6-3, 7-5.
💯 Good one today. Glad that I was able to prevail because it's one of my goals for this year.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) January 6, 2022
💯 To był dobry mecz. Jednym z moich celów na ten rok jest dominować na korcie i dziś to zrobiłam. pic.twitter.com/gAFHLGWyik
After taking out another Grand Slam champion in Petra Kvitova in the first round, Hon forced Azarenka to find another gear. Trailing 6-3, 2-0, Hon broke Azarenka to love and stayed on serve for much of the second set, including a gritty service hold from 0-40 to level at 4-4.
Words from the winner: "I felt like I played well, but there were some occasions where I got myself into trouble with hesitation. I have to give it to Priscilla; she really defended well and got me into that mode of not committing fully, but I'm glad that I was able to finish strong," Azarenka said. "Some of those moments are important also in the beginning of the season, when [you have] some tight moments to overcome, so I'm actually grateful for that."
Rivalry record: Azarenka and Swiatek have played once previously, with Azarenka winning a 6-4, 6-2 match in the third round of the 2020 US Open. At that time, however, the Pole was ranked World No.53 and was months away from capturing her first major title at Roland Garros later that fall.
Azarenka will bid for her second Top 10 win of the tournament. She took out World No.8 Paula Badosa in the opening round.