INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- While World No.1 Iga Swiatek separated herself from the field last year when she won six straight tournaments and 37 consecutive matches, her mastery has continued into the new season.
The most recent example came Monday night at the BNP Paribas Open in a bruising matchup between two former BNP Paribas Open’s champions, Swiatek (2022) and Andreescu (2019), which she won as a wild card. It was Swiatek who prevailed in breezy, heavy conditions, 6-3, 7-6 (1).
After playing a terrific match, Andreescu couldn’t contain Swiatek in the tiebreak, losing seven of eight points.
“She changed the rhythm pretty well and with this surface it can get tough,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview. “But I’m pretty happy I was solid most of the times, at least. And that I could be recomposed in the tiebreaker because I really knew that I could get my focus up.
Driving it home 👊— wta (@WTA) March 14, 2023
No.1 seed @iga_swiatek moves past Andreescu in a tight 6-3, 7-6(1) win!#TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/s9SfGzupLg
Swiatek is the only player yet to play a three-set match this year (minimum 15 played) and has ripped off a tour-leading 14 straight-set victories. Moreover, since the beginning of 2022, she’s won the most matches in straight sets (25) -- eight more than the next player, Jessica Pegula.
The difference, as usual, could be seen in the crucible of break points. Swiatek converted five of eight, while Andreescu converted one fewer. Swiatek, now 2-0 against Andreescu, is still on track to become the first woman to defend the title here at Indian Wells since Martina Navratilova in 1991.
"It was a really tight match, and I'm really happy that I actually played such a tight match, because now I see how I can handle those situations after couple of matches that were kind of one way.
"I think we both played well. I'm happy that in those important moments, I was the one that was more solid."
This is already Swiatek’s 13th trip to the Round of 16 at a WTA Tour 1000. Since 2009, only three other players -- Caroline Wozniacki (23), Victoria Azarenka (15) and Agnieszka Radwanska (14) -- accomplished that before turning 22 years old.
In a flurry, Andreescu won that 2019 title here, then the Toronto 1000 and the US Open. She was 19 years old. Since then, dogged by a variety of injuries, it has been a slog. She’s 6-6 for the year and looking for a spark. This match, despite the result, might have been the thing she was looking for.
"I know that my game was definitely going to level up to hers," Andreescu said afterward. "I knew she was going to play well but I didn't know she was going to play that well, but that's what you have to expect from the World No.1.
"She literally does not miss. You could hit any shot in the world and she literally will not list. She'll find a way to get to it, she'll put it where she exactly wants it."
It took Andreescu all of five minutes to equal Claire Liu’s one-game effort in Swiatek’s first match, breaking Swiatek in the opener. That seemed to wake Swiatek up. The second game, featuring three deuces, required eight minutes, but Swiatek had broken back.
After another lengthy game (four deuces) that saw Swiatek take a 3-2 lead, she broke Andreescu again with an emphatic backhand winner down the line. Make that 4-2. She served it out when Andreescu’s ball clipped the net chord and bounced back.
Swiatek came out swinging in the second set, breaking Andreescu in the first game, but serving a 2-1, suffered an unusual lapse in concentration. An errant forehand got the set back on serve. When Swiatek was threatening to break back, Andreescu hit a terrific forehand stretch volley winner that brought the crowd to its feet -- and had Andreescu pumping her fist.
The Canadian broke Swiatek to take a 4-2 lead, but Swiatek immediately forced the set back on serve. She took a 5-4 lead, breaking Andreescu -- at love. Naturally, Andreescu broke right back to level it at 5-all and it was off to the one-sided tiebreak.
"Complete domination," Andreescu said, when asked about the tiebreak. "I did not feel like I played much less than I played the whole match. She just pounced on every ball. I think I missed two shots."
The 21-year-old Swiatek now meets 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, 20, in a Wednesday night matchup between two more Grand Slam singles champions. Swiatek won their only previous match, last year in Stuttgart.
"I think after Stuttgart, I just know how her shots feel on the racquet, because before I haven't even practiced with her," Swiatek said. "So it helps in that way, but on the other hand, we are playing on hard court. There it was clay, but actually, this surface is slower.
"I have to really take care of the tactics anyway, and we'll see. Honestly, every day is different. The Stuttgart match was almost a year ago. So a long time ago."