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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Iga Swiatek

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek beat Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2 scoring her 33rd straight victory to set up a Roland Garros semifinal vs. Daria Kasatkina.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Celebrations are seldom stale when Iga Swiatek brings revelry to red clay.

Swiatek celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday and kept the party pumping in Paris today.

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World No. 1 Swiatek swept American Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2 scoring her 33rd straight victory to roll into the Roland Garros semifinals.

"Getting old, but still fresh," Swiatek wrote on the court-side camera lens after a powerful performance. 

"Well for sure I think it was my most solid match here, so I'm pretty happy with the performance," Swiatek told the media in Paris. "And from A to Z I was the pretty focused and I didn't let Jessica come back in those sets and I'm pretty happy."

The 2020 Roland Garros champion reached her second major semifinal of the season raising her record to a WTA-best 40-3 in 2022. Swiatek's 33-match run is the third-longest WTA winning streak this century behind only Venus Williams' 35-straight wins in 2000 and Serena Williams' 34-match winning streak in 2013.

The top-seeded Swiatek, who faces Daria Kasatkina in tomorrow's semifinals, has a shot to equal Venus Williams' record by taking her second title in Paris on Saturday.

In today's all-Russian quarterfinal, Kasatkina bamboozled friend and former junior rival Veronika Kudermetova with a variety of spins and speeds in a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.

The 20th-seeded Kasatkina, a master of finesse who owns a deadly drop shot, has won 11 of her last 13 matches reaching her first major semifnal in her 26th Grand Slam appearance.

"[I have] a little bit of time to enjoy, because still it's special for me and [my] first semifinal," Kasatkina told the media in Paris. "But I know that tomorrow is another, it's another mountain in front of me which I have to climb and that's it.

"Maybe it's even better that I don't have much time to think about how good was, you know, how good is to be in the semifinals, so I have another battle tomorrow."

The Warsaw-born Swiatek has conquered Kasatkina in three of four meetings, dropping just 11 games in three consecutive wins over the Russian this season.

"I played against Daria like three times already this season and every match is a different story, so I kind of want to start from the beginning and maybe take advantage of what I know about her game," Swiatek said. "But not really, you know, become too confident because you have to really stay focused and be ready for anything.

"And I know that she's playing a little bit differently on clay court so I have to also adjust to that. But my main key for me is to just play my tennis and play aggressively and try to dominate from the beginning."

Grand Slam tennis is all about timing.

Adopting a predatory posture, Swiatek robbed reaction time from Pegula with the pace and depth of her drives. Swiatek extended the American's dwell time by toweling off or holding up her hand at times to slow Pegula's pace of play between points.

Hovering around the baseline, Swiatek asserted her aggression with more conviction than her three-set win over Zheng Qinwen in the fourth round. Swiatek nearly doubled Pegula's winner output—30 to 16— broke serve five times and banged her backhand down the line effectively in an 89-minute win. Swiatek has now won 48 of her last 50 sets and reasserted her conviction after two matches where she didn't consistently play her best tennis.

It's been 105 days since Swiatek's last loss to 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai last February and it may be a while before she falters in France. Swiatek raised her record in Paris to 19-2 as she aims to join Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova as the fourth woman to win multiple Roland Garros crowns since 2000.

Meanwhile, Pegula's career-best Roland Garros singles run comes to an end, but she's still alive in doubles. Pegula and partner Coco Gauff are scheduled to face Greet Minnen and Anna Bondar in the quarterfinals on Court Simonne Mathieu.

Swiatek swatted a diagonal forehand breaking to open before Pegula rallied from love-40 down to break back.

Pegula was burned by a bad break in the seventh game.

Down break point, the American carved out a drop shot and a sliding Swiatek shoveled over her reply to earn the break. However, replay showed Swiatek actually reached the ball on the second bouce. The chair umpire did not call a not up—the play occurred near the far sideline—so Swiatek had the break and a 4-3 lead.

"I'm trying to get to every ball basically and if it was two bounces then I'm sorry," Swiatek said afterward. "But at that point I was so focused to just get to the ball and to win the point that it is like, yeah, I just went forward, you know.

"So, yeah, it's kind of these moments are pretty tricky because it's all on the umpire. But if it was two bounces then I'm sorry, I was just too focused to win the point."

Though Pegula pressed Swiatek to deuce in the eighth game, she sent a return long. The top seed held for 5-3 and Pegula bounced her Yonex racquet off the clay in frustration.

Serving to extend the set, Pegula ran into problems both with Swiatek's predatory posture returning second serve and the Pole slowing the American's pace of play. Swiatek held her hand up a couple of times and once turned her back to the court to wipe clay out of her eyes as Pegula was about to start her serve motion. By the time the dust settled, Pegula missed a forehand as Swiatek took the first set after 44 minutes.

Frustrated by the world No. 1's apparent stall tactics, Pegula voice her displeasure to the chair umpire on the ensuing changeover.

Playing primarily to the Pole's two-handed backhand to avoid that twisting topspin forehand, Pegula saved a break point in the fourth game of set two.

Swiatek squeezed out an error from the American for a second break point then went to the towel to give Pegula, standing on the line ready to serve, time to dwell on this pressure point. Waiting the wide serve on the ad side, Swiatek banged a backhand return winner down the line breaking for 3-1.

Two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Pegula needed the boomerang break to hang close. Swiatek wasn't having it. Hammering a forehand winner down the line for game point, the Rome champion cranked her fourth ace sealing her first love hold of the set for 4-1.

Staying the course, Swiatek was thumping deep drives with ambition working through a tricky hold for 5-2 then left an ornery Pegula bouncing her racquet off the red clay.

A bouncing Swiatek swept a clean backhand return winner down the line for double match point.

The 11th seed saved both with stinging serves, including an ace, then fired a diagonal forehand erasing a third match point.

On this day an oppressive Swiatek gave little room to roam. On her fourth match point, an aggressive Swiatek stepped in and slashed one final backhand srike down the line returning to the final four with a flourish.

After a coming-of-age birthday, Swiatek will try to stretch her clay celebration against Kasatkina tomorrow.


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