Iga Swiatek wasn’t all that impressed with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. A confessed bookworm, the 20-year-old Pole had just blown through The Great Gatsby in a matter of hours, left wanting for a little more depth.
“I’ve read better books,” she laughed only moments after outpunching 2015 champion Simona Halep in straight sets in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals, “but it’s a classic, so I don’t want to say anything bad.”
If Swiatek was taken by anyone, it was the novel’s central character, the enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby.
“We don’t know a lot about him, right?” she asked. “That’s the nicest part, that it was all a mystery.”
The No. 3 seed’s next opponent in Indian Wells, Maria Sakkari, has proven a mystery, too. Swiatek came out on the losing end against the fast-rising Greek star in each of their first three encounters, all played in 2021, at Roland Garros, Ostrava and the year-end WTA Finals. It was only last month in Doha that Swiatek found a way to solve Sakkari, claiming a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal en route to her fourth career singles title.
“The matches against her are always really physical,” said Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champion.
Last year, Sakkari became the first Greek woman to crack the Top 10, as well as the first from her country to qualify for the WTA Finals. But after defeating three Top-20 opponents to reach the semifinal-round at both Roland Garros and US Open, she stalled.
Her 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 loss to Barbora Krejcikova in Paris was especially painful, given that she held a match point in the third set. It was a rookie mistake, she said. The nerves simply got the best of her, dulling her usual offensive mindset. However, after dethroning BNP Paribas Open champion Paula Badosa in three sets on Friday night in Indian Wells, the 26-year-old Athenian insisted that she never got hung up on the shortfalls.
“I’ll be deadly honest: I never, ever thought about it,” she said. “I have a lot of people around me telling me about the semifinals, that I was not able to get over this hurdle. But I never, ever thought about it because I was always very confident and had a lot of belief that I would just get over it soon and it clicked, I guess.”
Swiatek’s attacking game has now resulted in 10 straight match wins and a tour-best 19 overall in 2022. She becomes the first Polish woman to reach the title tilt at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden since countrywoman Agnieszka Radwanska in 2014.
“We know that she has been playing very, very good since the beginning of the year. She’s one of the most consistent players this season and she has a lot of confidence,” said Sakkari. “I really respect her and I really like her because she’s a lovely girl, she’s very nice, and whatever she has achieved she really deserves it. On the other hand, I just have full faith and a lot of confidence in my game and in myself right now.”
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Not only will Sunday’s winner become the first from their respective homelands to walk away with the Baccarat crystal trophy, they’ll jump to a career-high No. 2 in the WTA rankings.
“Eight months ago, it was something that was impossible to get to,” said Sakkari. “Now it’s just a win away. But I’m not going to think about it because it has been already a very good tournament. I’m just going to embrace the fact that I have a chance and I’m already, just improving every week, which I think is very important for me, for my team, for my family, and of course for my country.”