World No.1 Iga Swiatek moved one step closer to a successful title defense at the BNP Paribas Open after defeating 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round on Tuesday night. Swiatek will face Romania's Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Three takeaways from Swiatek's business-like return to the quarterfinals.
Once again, Swiatek pulls away: In back-to-back matches against Grand Slam champions, Swiatek's confidence showed in her match management. Her ability at just 21 years old to feel out her opponents and then suddenly break away in the tiebreak is second to none.
In her wins over Bianca Andreescu in the third round and Raducanu in the fourth round, you could see how Swiatek's surges left her opponents looking to the sky with demoralized grins. Andreescu, by her own admission, played a great match. But Swiatek slammed the door in the second-set tiebreak by playing seven perfect points.
Highlights: Swiatek d. Andreescu
Similarly, Raducanu played a solid match. She did well to keep pace with Swiatek early, matching the World No.1 from the baseline and defending valiantly from the corners. But a Raducanu double fault while serving down 3-2, 0-30 gave Swiatek her best chance to break and the game's best returner took her opportunity immediately. Riding a run of nine straight points, Swiatek broke open the match to lead 5-2 and closed out the set two games later.
Switching it up 🤩@iga_swiatek | #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/4R4ixBKKOz— wta (@WTA) March 15, 2023
"Overall I feel like physically she is much further ahead than I am at this moment," Raducanu said. "I think I was able to stay competitive in the beginning of the first set. I think the first three games took over 20 minutes. And we were having some pretty epic rallies, and I actually think my defense got better.
"But that meant me running. I think that she just kind of ground me down a bit."
With a set in hand, Swiatek dominated the second set. With a clear game plan of holding steady and breaking Raducanu down with patient, prolonged rallies, Swiatek closed out the match after 1 hour and 24 minutes.
"I always want to finish [points] as fast as possible if I have a chance, but for sure I know that sometimes it's not going to be possible here," Swiatek said. "I'm pretty sure that some of these shots would be winners in different conditions, but here the ball is bouncing and it's slower.
"I'm always pretty good in defense. I knew that I can't rush it and I can't be not patient, so I just stayed solid and I wanted to choose the right directions. It was more about that, not the speed and forcing everything to play a winner."
Swiatek finished with 22 winners and 14 unforced errors, while converting 4 of 10 break points. Raducanu was held to 9 winners to 22 unforced errors, going 0 for 2 on break points.
Raducanu's confidence-boosting week is one to build on: After winning her first-round match over Danka Kovinic, Raducanu told reporters that she only made the decision to play 20 minutes before taking the court. After a bout with tonsillitis forced her out of the ATX Open two weeks ago, she revealed a wrist injury had flared up again during training.
But Raducanu powered through and scored two big wins, beating Australian Open semifinalist Magda Linette and No.13 Beatriz Haddad Maia in back-to-back matches. Not only did she win three consecutive matches for just the second time since 2021 US Open, but her win against Haddad Maia was her best win by ranking since beating No.12 Belinda Bencic during her US Open title run.
Highlights: Raducanu's top rallies against Haddad Maia
Raducanu acquitted herself well in her second meeting against Swiatek. She could not match the Pole in her consistency of width and depth but was able to stand her ground on the baseline and force Swiatek to unleash her formidable defensive and counter-punching skills.
"I'm very proud of myself," Raducanu said. "Now it's just about consistent work to physically get to where I want to be. I saw a taste of the level where No.1 is at physically and how she is at the corners, repetitive, relentless. Yeah, I just couldn't take that."
11 - Iga Swiatek is the sixth player to win 11+ of her first 12 main draw matches in Indian Wells after Steffi Graf (12), Mary Joe Fernandez, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka (11 each). Harmony.#TennisParadise | @BNPPARIBASOPEN @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/rldt7wUuhk— OptaAce (@OptaAce) March 15, 2023
Swiatek faces Cirstea next: Bidding to make her second consecutive WTA 1000 semifinal, Swiatek will face Cirstea for a second time in her career. It will be the first meeting since their three-set duel at the Australian Open last year. There, Swiatek rallied from a set down to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the Round of 16.
"It was an amazing match, and usually I don't say that when I lose a match," Cirstea said. "Since then she just took off. She's been playing amazing.
"She's such a complete player, she moves great, she doesn't have any flaws in her game. She's, from my point of view, the best mover we have. It's really hard to find a weakness in her game. I like Iga, I think she's the sweetest girl. She's such a wonderful role model."
Smiles all around 😀@sorana_cirstea takes out the No.5 seed Garcia in three sets! pic.twitter.com/Jl2luEaZ2m— wta (@WTA) March 15, 2023
Cirstea booked her spot in her first Indian Wells quarterfinals by upsetting No.5 Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
"I've been playing quite well as well, so I'm quite confident in my game," Cirstea said. "I know it's not going to be easy. I know she's the favorite."