Tennis: World No. 1 Swiatek into the semis at WTA Finals

Poland's Iga Swiatek (left) celebrates after defeating Caroline Garcia during the 2022 WTA Finals. PHOTOS: AFP, EPA-EFE
Daria Kasatkina celebrating after defeating Coco Gauff at the WTA Finals on Nov 3, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DALLAS – World No. 1 Iga Swiatek qualified for the semi-finals of the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday after Daria Kasatkina beat American Coco Gauff 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 in a round-robin match at the eight-player, season-ending tournament.

Swiatek, who secured her second victory after defeating Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2, goes through as the winner of the Tracy Austin Group, while Gauff can no longer qualify for the semi-finals.

Gauff started the match strongly, roaring to a 4-1 lead, before Kasatkina fought back to level the first set at 5-5.

Gauff’s eyes welled up with tears during the changeover and in the game that ensued, she was then broken to fall behind 5-6.

The 18-year-old regrouped to break back and force a tiebreak, but Kasatkina once again showed grit to fight back from 3-0 down and claim the tiebreak 8-6.

Kasatkina, a WTA Finals debutante, kept up the pressure in the second set, trading a couple of breaks with Gauff, before breaking to take a 4-2 lead and then serving out the match a few games later.

“To win for the first time at the Finals is an incredible feeling,” Kasatkina said.

“Obviously you want to win and go further in the tournament, so the motivation to win is there, but it’s not easy to manage the nerves and I feel it. I hope I can make it (to the semis) in the next match.”

For Swiatek, who upped her career Grand Slam tally to three with wins at the French and US Opens in 2022, the victory gave her some measure of revenge on Garcia after having fallen to the Frenchwoman in the quarter-final at the Poland Open in July.

The 21-year-old Pole broke at love for a 5-3 lead and then served out what proved to be a tight opening frame on her third set point when world No. 6 Garcia sent a forehand long.

Swiatek then broke Garcia to start the second set and in the next game calmly roared back from 0-40 down to hold serve and never faced a break point the rest of the way in a match she sealed in style with an ace.

Garcia tried to use aggressive court positioning to throw her opponent off and was often returning serves from inside the baseline but Swiatek was prepared for the Frenchwoman’s tactics.

“Yeah, she was putting a lot of pressure and speed on her balls, so I needed to get them back and hit them even better. I was ready for that. We had really good tactics with my coach and they gave me the belief that I could dominate even though she is playing really well,” Swiatek said. REUTERS

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