Displaying the resourcefulness and resilience you might expect from the World No.1, Iga Swiatek came back to defeat Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to Sunday’s final at the San Diego Open.
Swiatek will meet qualifier Donna Vekic in the final. Vekic was down 4-2 in the third set to Danielle Collins when play was called on account of rain on Saturday night, but Vekic erased that deficit on Sunday to beat Collins 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2).
Former Top 20 player Vekic will have to overcome a short turnaround before facing Swiatek in the final at 4 p.m. local time. Swiatek has won both of their two previous meetings.
“Both of the players that are playing the other semifinal are big hitters, so tactically I need to be ready for that,” Swiatek said after her victory, referring to both Vekic and Collins. “But last year and this year I put a lot of energy in practices getting back those heavy strokes. So hopefully I’m going to be able to use that.”
Swiatek, 21, is now 23-1 in the United States this season.
She won her 63rd match of the 2022 season, equaling the 2016 total of Angelique Kerber for the most Hologic WTA Tour victories in the past six years. Swiatek, who defeated Pegula for the fourth time this year, will become the fourth woman to finish the year with more than 10,000 points in the WTA Tour rankings, after Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
And then there’s this fun fact that underlines her dominance: Swiatek has won 18 of 19 sets this year against the next three players behind her in the Race to the WTA Finals -- Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.
Rain delay = crossword puzzles 🧠@iga_swiatek | #SanDiegoOpen pic.twitter.com/nGEFBLK40l— wta (@WTA) October 16, 2022
There were three breaks of serve in the first set and a continuous shifting of momentum. After back-to-back breaks, Pegula faced a third but saved two break points and leveled the match at 4-all when Swiatek missed a forehand wide.
In the next game, with Swiatek facing a break point, she double-faulted off the top of the net and Pegula went on to serve out the first set, prevailing on another Swiatek forehand that sailed wide.
After play was suspended for more than an hour because of rain, Swiatek came out firing and took a 3-0 lead, an advantage she never relinquished. She converted her second set point with a ringing forehand that clipped the line -- and the match headed into the decisive third set.
Serving at 2-all in the third, Swiatek saved all three break points against her -- and then broke Pegula to take a 4-2 lead. A tired-looking forehand into the net from Pegula sent Swiatek into her ninth final of the year.
“For sure the break that we had helped me refocus and kind of calmed myself down,” Swiatek said afterward. “I’m pretty happy that I came back with a different mindset.”
As for Vekic, she has had a remarkable tournament, qualifying into the main draw and then beating two Top 10 players, Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka, before her semifinal win over Collins. It is Vekic's first event with wins against two Top 10 players since 2018 Tokyo.
Adding her wins over Collins and Karolina Pliskova, Vekic has defeated four Top 25 players in a row in the main draw this week. This marks Vekic's 10th singles final on the WTA Tour in her career, and she is aiming for her fourth career title.