It's a "sweet sixteen" for upcoming World No.1 Iga Swiatek, who won her 16th straight match with a hard-fought 6-2, 7-5 victory Thursday over Jessica Pegula in the Miami Open semifinals.
Swiatek is now into her first Miami Open final and her third consecutive WTA 1000 final overall. She needed 1 hour and 48 minutes to outlast No.16 seed Pegula, the last American standing, in singles at the Miami Open.
"Even though it's the middle of the night, I feel like I'm going to get some time to chill out today, because it was a really intense match and I had to give everything," Swiatek said after her win.
Iga vs. Naomi for the crown: Swiatek will now take on former World No.1 Naomi Osaka in an enticing championship battle. Osaka defeated Belinda Bencic for the first time at tour-level in the first semifinal of the day.
Osaka won their only previous meeting, when she beat Swiatek 7-6(4), 6-4 in the Round of 16 at 2019 Toronto.
If Swiatek can avenge that loss and defeat Osaka, she will become the fourth player to win titles at both Indian Wells and Miami in the same season, completing the "Sunshine Double." She would join Stefanie Graf (1994 and 1996), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Victoria Azarenka (2016) in that select group.
"I am excited for sure [about facing Osaka in the final], but on the other hand for me, the most important job is this is a match like any other," Swiatek said. "I don't want to change my routines, I don't want to change my attitude, because it's been working out pretty well. I'm going to treat it like any other match."
WTA 1000 dominance: Swiatek has not lost a match at the WTA 1000 events this year, where the entirety of her career-best winning streak has taken place. She won the first WTA 1000 event of the season in Doha, then followed up with the title at WTA 1000 Indian Wells a fortnight ago.
Swiatek needed to battle through a tense second set with Pegula, fighting back from an early break down, then squandering two match points at 5-4 before sealing victory two games later. Nevertheless, Swiatek is into the final without the loss of a set.
"[Pegula] is playing really low balls, that's her style," Swiatek said. "You have to work really low on your legs. It's just getting more and more intense. She's not missing a lot, so basically she's gonna also just use every opportunity to attack as well."
Swiatek is now the ninth player to reach the finals at both Indian Wells and Miami in the same year, joining Monica Seles, Graf, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Azarenka.
All eight of those players have taken a turn at World No.1. Swiatek will get her own turn Monday, when she is guaranteed to ascend to the World No.1 ranking for the first time in her career.
Stat corner: Pegula pulled off a comeback from a set down in her previous meeting with Swiatek, which came in Washington, D.C. in 2019. Pegula went on to win her first career singles title that week.
This time, Swiatek refused to yield in her winning streak as she leveled her head-to-head with Pegula at a win apiece.
Swiatek was able to hold onto more of her first-service points than Pegula, with the Polish player prevailing on 70 percent of those points, while the American only won 55 percent of points behind her first serve.
Swiatek converted just six of her 16 break points, but she still doubled Pegula's three service breaks for the evening.
Key moments: As she had done in all of her previous sets at the 2022 Miami Open, Swiatek zipped through the first set, stepping in on nearly every ball and powering through the opener without facing a break point.
But in the second set, Pegula showed off the combination of offense and defense which propelled her to a career-high ranking of No.14 earlier this year. Speedy Pegula increasingly forced Swiatek into errors, and Pegula broke the No.2 seed three times in the second set, including at 5-4, where Swiatek had two match points.
But at 5-5, Swiatek put on the afterburners, slamming a backhand winner down the line to earn a break at love and a second chance to serve out the match. Swiatek took that opportunity with gusto, converting her third match point after a long return by Pegula.