No.7 seed Iga Swiatek wrapped up an impressive first week at the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No.25 seed Daria Kasatkina, though the scoreline does not reflect the toughness of the 1-hour, 34-minute battle.
Former Roland Garros champion Swiatek's clutch performance on important points puts her into the second week of a sixth successive major, and third Australian Open in a row. The 20-year-old has reached at least the fourth round in nine of the 12 Grand Slams she has contested. In Melbourne this week, she has yet to lose more than five games in any of her matches.
The result was revenge for the pair's only previous meeting, in the second round of Eastbourne last year. That was the fourth WTA main draw match on grass of Swiatek's career, and Kasatkina exposed that inexperience with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory.
Welcome back to the #AusOpen fourth round @iga_swiatek ✨— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2022
The world No.9 overcomes Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-3 to reach the second week at a Grand Slam for the sixth consecutive time.
🎥: @wwos • @espn • @Eurosport • @wowowtennis #AO2022 pic.twitter.com/4PK8fX0ncS
Match management: Though Swiatek finished with more winners than Kasatkina (24 to 13) and fewer unforced errors (35 to 37), the story of the match lay in how both players dealt with the tightest passages of play.
In total, there were eight games that went to at least one deuce. Swiatek won all five in the first set, and two out of three in the second. She also converted four out of eight break points, while saving eight of nine against her. Consequently, although the competitiveness of any given game was closer than the final scoreline suggests, the Pole had an iron grip of scoreboard momentum throughout.
Kasatkina came up with several moments of magic - feathery touch on volleys, some superb defence-into-offence counterpunching - but was unable to translate that often enough into winning games. By contrast, Swiatek's finest striking, particularly on a forehand that garnered her 12 winners, frequently came at the sharp end of those long deuce tussles.
Swiatek on tactics: "For sure, that was really intense match," she said afterwards. "I feel like I'm playing better and better every match, so that's positive. "Tactically, I did a pretty good job of not letting her use her topspin on the forehand, and I'm glad that I was the first one to switch the direction maybe to the line so I could have more initiative.
Swiatek on her fourth-round streak: "I'm aware, and that gave me a little bit of doubt before the match," she said. "That was another thing that I had to overcome, because I wanted to at least do the same result as I did in previous years. But it's not a good way to focus on that. I am pretty proud that today I could overcome that attitude of looking to my past achievement. Because right now I'm kind of in a different tennis life. I switched my coach, I'm focusing on different stuff, and I'm trying to only look on the positives and on what's going to be forward.
"That was my goal for last year, to have consistency. [Now] I want to have some tournaments that I'm going to really make something bigger than fourth round at. But on the other hand I don't want to focus on that, because I'm pretty good right now at just looking at another match, another step."
The smile says it all 🤩— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2022
🇷🇴 @sorana_cirstea knocks out the 10th seed in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 2-6 6-2 to advance to the fourth round at the #AusOpen for the second time. #A02022 pic.twitter.com/tvHWznYDal
Cirstea upsets Pavlyuchenkova to reach fourth major Round of 16
Swiatek's fourth-round opponent will be the unseeded Sorana Cirstea, who upset No.10 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in 1 hour and 42 minutes. It is the fourth time that the Romanian has made the second week of a Grand Slam in her career: she was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros 2009, and followed that with fourth-round runs at the 2017 Australian Open and Roland Garros 2021.
Cirstea, 31, and Pavlyuchenkova, 30, have been squaring off since their junior days, though this was their first encounter at a major. No.38-ranked Cirstea now leads their pro head-to-head 4-3, and 4-2 excluding retirements.
There were five breaks of serve in the first six games, but Cirstea was the first to find a consistent stretch of form. She took the momentum into the second set, but after netting a putative backhand winner to go up a break, lost control of her game somewhat as Pavlyuchenkova mounted a comeback.
But Cirstea refocused and found some scintillating returns at the start of the third set, and never loosened her grasp. Pavlyuchenkova, who double faulted twice down break point in the decider, finished the match with 31 unforced errors to 22 winners, while Cirstea kept a tighter ship with 15 winners and 17 unforced errors.
Cirstea, who upset No.20 seed Petra Kvitova in the first round, is the only player in the last 16 who has notched up two Top 20 wins in the first week of the tournament. Her clash with Swiatek will be the first time the pair have played.