Iga Swiatek’s dominance at the WTA 1000 events this season continues unabated, as the No.3 seed from Poland defeated No.6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-4, 6-1 on Sunday to win the 2022 BNP Paribas Open.
After winning her fifth Hologic WTA Tour singles title of her career, and her second consecutive title, Swiatek will rise to a new career-high position of World No.2 in Monday’s upcoming singles rankings.
Swiatek is the first Polish woman to claim the title at Indian Wells, surpassing the result by 2014 BNP Paribas Open runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska. Swiatek will also tie former World No.2 Radwanska as the highest-ranked Polish player in history.
Spotless Swiatek: With the win, Swiatek becomes the first woman to reach 20 match-wins this season. Swiatek’s victory also marks her career-best 11th straight win on the Hologic WTA Tour, with that streak coming at the first two 1000-level events of the season. Swiatek won the title last month at the WTA 1000 Qatar TotalEnergies Open in Doha.
With her 80-minute win over Sakkari, Swiatek continues to steamroll through championship matches. In her past five finals, all of which she won, Swiatek has dropped only a combined 16 games. Sunday's 6-4, 6-1 score line is the same as it was in her 2020 Roland Garros final, where she won her first career title.
Swiatek had gone 0-3 in her first three meetings against Sakkari, all coming in 2021. But since then, the Pole has won their last two encounters, during her title runs in Doha and Indian Wells this season.
Words from the champion: "At the beginning of the tournament, I wouldn't even think about winning, honestly," Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. "Of course you have to believe in yourself, but I'm a realistic person.
"Winning after playing so well in Doha is giving me a lot of confidence and kind of belief that I can do it. ... I wouldn't think of myself as someone who's ready to play two tournaments in a row and win it. For sure hard work is paying off.
"[Sakkari and I are] stepping a similar path, looking at rankings and looking at what we've been playing for the last couple of years. Paula Badosa, Anett [Kontaveit] and Ons Jabeur, I don't want to forget anybody, but I think we kind of started playing Top 10 tennis at the same time.
"[The World No.2 ranking is] pretty surreal for now. I have to look at it and I have to check the rankings by myself and just see it. Right now it's too surreal to describe it, honestly. ... But for sure I want to go higher because I feel like getting No. 1 is closer and closer."
Sakkari surging: Sakkari reached her first 1000-level final and will improve to a new career-high ranking Monday as well, rising to World No.3. She will match current ATP pro Stefanos Tsitsipas’s career-high ranking of No.3, tying him for the highest-ranked Greek player in history, female or male.
"I can't believe there's only two girls above me right now," Sakkari said after the final. "Whoever followed my steps the last couple of years, they know what that means to me.
"I'm very proud that myself and Stefanos have actually grown tennis in Greece. Having two players in that ranking position is something huge for us. I'm going to say it again, but I'm very proud of myself this week."
Tale of the match: Returners had the advantage on a gusty day in Indian Wells, with six of the first seven games going against serve. However, Swiatek got a handle on returning the Sakkari second serve, where she won 14 of 16 points in that set. Swiatek used that to her advantage in the final game, breaking for the one-set lead.
Sakkari fended off two break points in the second game of the second set, and the Greek used strong forehand returns in the following game to push Swiatek to three deuces. But Swiatek battled her way to a hold for 2-1, and from there, the Pole began to race through the rest of the match.
Combining outstanding deep groundstrokes with excellent defending, Swiatek survived the blustery conditions, winning the final five games of the match to take the champion’s trophy. Swiatek notched six service breaks on the day to triumph in the Top 10 showdown.