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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, October 12, 2021


In a clash of Roland Garros champions, Jelena Ostapenko surprised second-seeded Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-3 to roar into the Indian Wells quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Getty

It was rush hour in the desert and Jelena Ostapenko was directing traffic.

In a clash of Roland Garros champions, Ostapenko rallied from a break down in both sets surprising second-seeded Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-3 to roar into the Indian Wells quarterfinals.

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"I just tried to not think about it," Ostapenko said of facing a fellow French Open champion. "I knew she's a good player and I have to play well against her. I just tried to enjoy the moment here.

"It's last couple of tournaments this year, and I didn't try to think too much. Just play my game and enjoy the moment."

In less than 24 hours, we've seen three of the Top 5 seeds fall. Yesterday, lucky loser Beatriz Haddad Maia exploited 12 double faults from Karolina Pliskova toppling the top seed 6-3, 7-5 amid wind gusts that raged 40 mph.

Conditions are calmer today but flat-hitting Ostapenko and American Jessica Pegula created volatility at the top.

The 24th-ranked Pegula pounded out-of-sorts fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1 in a 68-minute thrashing. Pegula served 70 percent, won 22 of 26 first-serve points and did not face a break point raising her 2021 record to 36-18.

"You could kind of tell she was struggling with a little something, but there were a couple of games there in, especially in the second early on, where she was still competing and she was still fighting and she was still trying to find a way to work her way into the match," Pegula said of Svitolina. "I didn't think at any time she was ever going to give it to me, but I did kind of get the sense that, okay, this is a big game."

Svitolina took a medical time-out and lacked her typical quick court coverage, but Pegula stayed the course and controlled the center of the court improving to 7-6 lifetime vs. Top 10 opponents.

"It was hard, because she was kind of in that mode where she was going for more because she was maybe kind of annoyed, which obviously everyone has been there, and she was still trying," Pegula said. "It was tough. Do I try to step in and be aggressive, or do I kind of let her make mistakes? It was kind of that awkward moment where I think every player kind of knows what I'm talking about. You have those matches."

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The 24th-ranked Pegula awaits the winner of the all-Belarusian clash between former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Hugging the baseline, Ostapenko took Swiatek's topspin on the rise and drilled drives deep into both corners.

The 2017 Roland Garros champion cracked 25 winners and saved six of eight break points in a one hour, 33-minute victory.

"I think I played very well," Ostapenko said. "I didn't give her any chances to play, because I think I was playing very aggressive and took the time away from her so she couldn't do much against me.

"Yeah, that was just the plan for the game, just to play my game and be aggressive, and I think I did it pretty well today."

Swiatek had surrendered just five games in two tournament wins, but Ostapenko battled back from 3-4 down in the opening set breaking twice in succession to snatch a one-set lead.

Continuing to crack her flat drives down both lines, Ostapenko rallied from 1-3 down in the second set reeling off five consecutive games to fly through the finish line into a quarterfinal clash vs. American Shelby Rogers.

The 44th-ranked Rogers fended off US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) in a thriller to reach the Indian Wells quarterfinals for the first time. 

"She's a great player but [I will] try to focus more on myself and play my game," Ostapenko said. "I think if I play well my game, then I'm a dangerous player."


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