Swiatek and Sakkari set up WTA title clash in Indian Wells – Sports
INDIAN WELLS: Maria Sakkari ended Paula Badosa’s bid for a new title at Indian Wells on Friday, beating the defending champion to set up a final clash with former French Open champion Iga Swiatek.
Greece’s Sakkari triumphed 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to end Badosa’s bid to become the first woman since Martina Navratilova in 1990-91 to win back-to-back Indian Wells titles.
Poland’s Swiatek beat two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
Ranked fourth in the world, Swiatek is already assured of a career-high third in the world. Either she or sixth-placed Sakkari can claim second place with a victory in Sunday’s title match.
“Really, it’s beyond my expectations,” said Swiatek, who said she came to the prestigious event in the California desert doubting she could pursue her fourth career title in Doha with another deep tournament run.
But she rebounded from a breakdown in each set and saved two set points in the opening set tiebreaker to claim a 10th straight WTA match victory.
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“It was really intense,” Swiatek said, “really physical. I think we had the longest rallies I’ve played here.
The 20-year-old equalized her head-to-head record against Halep with two wins apiece, but admitted that required a change of mind against a player who was once much higher ranked than herself.
“I had to fight until the end and be stronger mentally,” she said. “Simona is a very strong player mentally and she doesn’t give up, so I wanted to do better.”
Halep, who lifted the Indian Wells trophy in 2015, was unable to return to the final but completed another good week as she returns from a 2021 season marred by calf and knee injuries.
Halep took a 5-4 lead with her second break of the first set, but she couldn’t finish it in the next game and they went to a tiebreaker.
The Romanian again had the upper hand in the tiebreaker, but at 6-4 she fired a long backhand and Swiatek won the next three points – saving a set point with a deep backhand volley then clinching the set with a searing one-second comeback from Halep. to serve.
A frustrated Halep was cautioned after hitting her racquet in disgust and Swiatek, her confidence boosted, broke Halep for a 2-1 lead in the second.
But the set went a bit like the first.
After having his left thigh bandaged by the coach, Halep recovered the break and grabbed another to advance 4-2 on a pair of forehand errors from Swiatek.
But once again the Romanian couldn’t hold the advantage and Swiatek won four straight games to seal the win.
Sakkari enters the final knowing that she has won three of the previous four encounters with Swiatek.
The Greek player shook off an opening break from her serve to win six of seven games before pocketing the first set, breaking Badosa twice as the Spaniard struggled with her serve.
Badosa fought back in the second, breaking Sakkari twice on the way to a 3-2 lead and hanging on to force a third, in which Sakkari’s aggression and power were too much for his opponent.
“I was very worried before the game because Paula plays very differently from other girls,” said Sakkari, whose only previous title was on clay in Rabat in 2019. “She has a very heavy game and she obviously loves this tournament .
“I just had total faith and I believe in myself every moment,” she added, fighting back tears. “I’m just speechless right now.”