World No.1 Iga Swiatek and Barbora Krejcikova will both carry winning streaks into Sunday’s championship match at the Agel Open.
Reigning US Open champion Swiatek won her 10th straight match by fending off a stern challenge from hard-hitting World No.21 Ekaterina Alexandrova, eventually prevailing 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-4 after 2 hours and 38 minutes of semifinal play.
The victory marks Swiatek's 60th match-win of the season, including Hologic WTA Tour events and Billie Jean King Cup action. She is the first player to hit 60 victories in a calendar year since Caroline Wozniacki finished 2017 with 60.
Swiatek is also into her eighth final of the season and is undefeated in finals so far in 2022. Throughout her career, Swiatek is 10-1 in Hologic WTA Tour singles finals, with her only loss coming to Polona Hercog in Swiatek’s very first final at 2019 Lugano.
Barbora Krejcikova will be Swiatek's opponent in Sunday's final. Krejcikova thrilled her homeland crowd in Ostrava, Czech Republic by battling past reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.
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Swiatek has won both of her previous meetings with Krejcikova. Swiatek won in straight sets on the hard courts of Miami last year before a difficult three-set victory on the clay of Rome two months later.
"I know that [the final is] going to be tough, and Barbora plays a little bit differently than my opponent today, so tactically I have to be ready," Swiatek said, after her win. "It doesn’t really matter for me if it’s a final or any other round, I’m just going to give it my all."
Alexandrova had triumphed over Swiatek in their only prior encounter, which came at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne early last year. But Swiatek leveled their rivalry at 1-1, despite trailing Alexandrova in winners (34 to 25) and service breaks (3 to 2) on Saturday.
In fact, Alexandrova’s 17 winners in the first set was more than double Swiatek’s eight, but there were still no service breaks in the opener. In the tiebreak, Alexandrova’s errors mounted while Swiatek’s powerful shots peaked, and the top seed stole the set.
Things turned around in the second set when Alexandrova got the first break of the day with a backhand winner down the line for 2-0. Alexandrova raced to a 5-0 lead from there and held on to collect the second set.
The decisive third set was deadlocked through 3-3 before Swiatek drew errors from Alexandrova to break at love for 4-3. Swiatek pulled off a 12-point winning streak en route to 5-3, and powerful forehands helped the World No.1 wrap up the match two games later.
Meanwhile, after contesting only one final in the first nine months of the year, former World No.2 Krejcikova has caught fire, having reached two finals in the last two weeks. Last week’s Tallinn champion Krejcikova is now on an eight-match winning streak.
"It’s amazing what I’ve achieved in the last two weeks, so I feel really happy and really glad with the way I’m performing so far," Krejcikova said afterward. "I’m really looking forward to playing the final in front of the Czech fans."
2021 Roland Garros champion Krejcikova improves to 8-1 in Hologic WTA Tour semifinals in her career, as she becomes the first Czech player to reach the Ostrava final in its three-year history as a tour event.
With her 2-hour and 21-minute win, Krejcikova is an undefeated 2-0 against Rybakina, having eked out another win in their only prior meeting, at the Grampians Trophy early last year.
On Saturday, Rybakina had 39 winners, 17 of those being aces, to just 25 unforced errors. But Krejcikova was exceptional behind her first serve, winning 82 percent of those points despite only hitting two aces. The Czech lost serve just twice, the same number of times as Rybakina.
"It was a really difficult match, I think we both played incredible tennis," Krejcikova said. "I’m very happy with the way things turned around for me, because I thought that I got very [few] chances. I was really happy that I was able to convert them and that I was able to get the win."
Rybakina won the opening frame with 10 winners to six unforced errors, breaking for a 5-3 lead on her fourth break point of that game before consolidating for the one-set advantage.
The second set had no service breaks, and there were no mini-breaks in the pivotal tiebreak through 5-4. But Krejcikova leveled up on the final two points on Rybakina’s serve, slamming forehand winners on each to clinch the breaker and tie the match.
The third set also featured a number of routine early service games, but Krejcikova carved her way past a net-rushing Rybakina with passes and lobs to collect the sole break of the decider and lead 5-4. In the next game, a forehand winner closed out a love hold, and the match, for Krejcikova.