Swiatek and Sakkari Reach Women’s Finals at Indian Wells – Press Enterprise

By BETH HARRIS AP sports writer

INDIAN WELLS — Iga Swiatek bounced back from a collapse in every set to beat Simona Halep 7-6 (6), 6-4 on Friday night and advance to the BNP Paribas Open final.

Maria Sakkari overtook defending champion Paula Badosa 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 and will face Swiatek in the final on Sunday. Swiatek is certain to hit a new career high of either No. 2 or No. 3 in the world rankings, depending on the result.

Swiatek saved two set points in the first set tiebreak as she overcame deficits of 3-1 and 5-3. She won the last four points, with Halep making mistakes on three of those points before Swiatek cracked a forehand winner from Halep’s second serve. Halep received a racquet abuse warning for smashing her racquet on the court.

Swiatek went 2-1 in the second set with five breaks of serve. Halep took a medical break and had a trainer wrap his upper left thigh.

Halep then broke Swiatek twice while leading the next three games 4-2. But from then on, Swiatek took over. She’s won the last four games in a row, with Halep winning just four total points on serve while getting broken twice.

“We had the longest rallies I’ve played here,” said Swiatek. “In the beginning I had to get used to the new rhythm a bit because Simona certainly played better than my opponents in the previous rounds and I’m pretty proud that I managed that. Mentally I was pretty strong.”

In the men’s game, Taylor Fritz, who hails from San Diego, defeated Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1 to reach the semifinals for the second time in five months.

The 24-year-old is in the midst of the best phase of his young career and it all started in the desert in October. At this point, the tournament took place last year and was relegated from its traditional March spot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Fritz came 39th in the world rankings in Indian Wells. He beat top 10 players Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in the semifinals.

He is now No. 20 – after hitting a career high of 16th in February – and is 24-8 since last year’s tournament. He has reached the quarterfinals of five tournaments and reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the Australian Open in January.

“Things are starting to fall into place,” he said. “I feel like my level as a player has gone up a ton.”

Fritz has achieved many milestones at Indian Wells where he is always a crowd pleaser. He came to the event as a child, having grown up near San Diego as the son of former WTA Tour player Kathy May.

“I wasn’t watching any games,” said Fritz, who instead was chasing players for autographs, including Andy Murray and Bernard Tomic.

Fritz made his debut in a Masters 1000 peloton in Indian Wells, scoring his first top 10 win here in 2017. His father, Guy Fritz, is a former ATP Tour pro who coaches the men’s tennis team at nearby College of the Desert.

“It feels like a home away from home,” he says. “Only the energy is completely different.”

Fritz is the first American to reach the consecutive semifinals at Indian Wells since Andy Roddick in 2009/10. The last American to win the tournament was Andre Agassi in 2001; Fritz was 3 years old at the time.

“There is no place I would rather have these results than here,” said Fritz.

After he and Kecmanovic split sets, Fritz dominated the third. He raced 5-0 up before the Serb held. Fritz then served a love match to end the match.

Next, Fritz plays Russia’s No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev, who beat Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 6-2.

Rublev has won 13 straight games and wins back-to-back titles in Marseille and Dubai. He never lagged behind Dimitrov and gave serve only once in the 1½-hour game that pitted the former world No. 1 junior players against each other.

Rublev has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

“I’m really motivated to become a better player,” he said. “Sometimes I can’t wait to go to the next tournament, you know?”

In the other semi-final on Saturday, Rafael Nadal meets 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in an all-Spanish duel. Nadal is 19-0 this year.


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