INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- World No.1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek booked her return to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open after defeating Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday.
As Swiatek bids to become just the second woman to defend the title at Indian Wells, she will face reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Friday. The duel will be a rematch of their Round of 16 clash at the Australian Open in January, which Rybakina won 6-4, 6-4.
"Well, I think it was a pretty nice match for me," Swiatek said afterward. "I feel like I'm playing better and better every match. Today I started both sets well, and it gave me a lot of confidence, and I felt like I can just put pressure and kind of leading most of the rallies."
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With No.2 Aryna Sabalenka advancing to the semifinals on Wednesday, this marks the first time since 2014 that the top two seeds have reached the semifinal stage at Indian Wells. That year, No.1 seed Li Na and No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska progressed to the semifinals, with Radwanska eventually advancing to the final.
She's on a mission today 😤@iga_swiatek | #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/hakiOb0aqk— wta (@WTA) March 16, 2023
How the match was won: Swiatek jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead to start the match, but Cirstea broke back immediately, breaking Swiatek from 40-15 down to get on the board. But after the two exchanged holds to 3-2, Swiatek raced away. The Pole reeled off the next eight games to build a 6-2, 4-0 lead after an hour of play.
Cirstea stalled Swiatek's momentum with a break of serve to move to 4-1 in the second set, but Swiatek held on to her break advantage to close out the match after 1 hour and 22 minutes.
The victory extended Swiatek's head-to-head record over Cirstea to 2-0. Into her third consecutive semifinal, Swiatek has yet to lose a set during this fortnight. She has now won 10 consecutive matches at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Stat of the match: It was a dominant and clean day of tennis for Swiatek, who finished with 19 winners and 13 unforced errors, breaking Cirstea on five of her break chances.
16 - Iga Swiatek is the fourth player to win 16+ main draw matches in a row at the Sunshine Double (Indian Wells and Miami) after Steffi Graf, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Sunshine.#TennisParadise | @BNPPARIBASOPEN @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/yK5AYWJj96— OptaAce (@OptaAce) March 16, 2023
Up next: Swiatek's victory sets a rematch with reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina. She advanced to her first WTA 1000 semifinal after a tough three-set win over Karolina Muchova. She is one of three players who has tallied a win against Swiatek this season; she ended Swiatek's quest for a fourth major title at the Australian Open. Swiatek and Rybakina have split their two meetings, both of which were played on hard court.
Swiatek is bidding to become the first No.1 seed to advance to the Indian Wells final since Serena Williams in 2016 and the first top seed to win the title since Victoria Azarenka in 2012. Should she go on to successfully defend the title, Swiatek will join Martina Navratilova as the only two women to win back-to-back championships at Indian Wells.