Swiatek sweeps past Sakkari for second Indian Wells title

World number one beats Greek ninth seed 6-4, 6-0 to win biggest victory of year

AFP March 18, 2024


World number one Iga Swiatek powered past Greece's Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday to claim her second Indian Wells WTA title two years after she beat Sakkari for her first.

The rematch of the 2022 championship showdown produced an almost identical outcome, as four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek dominated the second set to seize her 19th career title and her second of 2024.

Sakkari, ranked ninth in the world, battled gamely through the opening set, erasing a break and saving two break points in the final game before Swiatek delivered a blistering forehand winner to pocket the set after 44 minutes.

It would take just 24 more minutes for the Polish star to wrap things up. She broke Sakkari at love for a 2-0 lead and rolled to the finish.

Swiatek, who continued her strong comeback from a third-round exit at the Australian Open in January, said her 12 days in the California desert weren't as easy as her scorelines might suggest.

She lost just 21 games and didn't drop a set.

"I'm really proud of myself," she said. "Even though this tournament looked like, the scores, maybe I had everything under control, it wasn't from the beginning to the end so easy.

"So I'm happy I could improve during the tournament. I felt really good on the last two matches, big amount of confidence," added Swiatek, whose run included a grudge match victory over Linda Noskova -- the Czech teen who stunned her in the third round in Melbourne.

Since that disappointment, Swiatek has come back strong, winning a title in Doha and reaching the semi-finals at Dubai.

On Sunday, she became the 10th woman to win the Indian Wells title twice, joining Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters as the only players to notch two titles before turning 23.

"I just feel I've done really good work," Swiatek said. "It hasn't been easy after Australia and I've been working hard to play well and to handle everything mentally well."

She got off to a hot start against Sakkari, breaking for a 3-0 lead.

Sakkari, whose two career titles include last September's 1000-level event in Guadalajara, broke back in the fifth game and leveled the set with a love hold for 4-4.

But serving to stay in the set, she quickly found herself down 0-40 and once Swiatek had the set in hand she was away, winning the last eight games of the match.

"There is no point of over-analyzing it, I wasn't feeling like I lost control or something," said Swiatek, who produced three unreturnable serves to take a 5-4 lead in the first. "I just knew what I wanted to improve and I did that."

Although she had managed to make the first set competitive, Sakkari said hanging with Swiatek in the rallies just wasn't enough.

"You have to be ultra-aggressive playing her," she said.

"You also have to take every opportunity," she added. "When you play Iga, (Aryna) Sabalenka, (Elena) Rybakina, all the players ... you have like two, three chances in the match and you have to take them," she said.

"If you don't take them, then it's 'ciao-ciao' as I say.

"Especially with (Swiatek). She's aggressive, but she's solid. Like from 3-0 to 3-3 to 4-4 she started missing.

"But then if you don't take that small chance -- like it was 4-all, and I played a very loose returning game. I missed three backhand returns.

"That's not acceptable with players like her."

Finally, Sakkari was left regretting her troubles in putting away US Open champion Coco Gauff in a rain-disrupted semi-final.

She wasted three match points in the second set before winning it in three and said that match had taken it out of her.

"Maybe things would have been different for me, like the way I felt on court, if my previous match didn't go as long as it went," she said.


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