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WTA Thursday Quarterfinals: Swiatek Storms Into Semis, Rematch With Rybakina Looms
5 Min Read · March 16, 2023

Indian Wells quarterfinal action concludes on Thursday in the California desert as the top half of the women’s singles draw competes for coveted semifinal spots at the BNP Paribas Open. 10th-seeded Elena Rybakina takes on Czech Karolina Muchova first, followed by top-seeded Iga Swiatek, who puts her nine-match BNP Paribas Open winning streak on the line against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

Scroll down to keep tabs on all of the quarterfinal action taking place inside Stadium 1…


Iga, Undaunted 

Iga Swiatek just has a way of making winning look easy. The defending champion pushed past another challenger on Thursday, booking her 10th consecutive BNP Paribas Open win with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea on Stadium 1.

Swiatek improved to 2-0 against the resurgent Romanian delighting her fans with a polished and precise effort against the hard-hitting World No.83.

It was Cirstea’s game plan to play full-throttle tennis and she certainly had her moments. Going for broke early in the rallies netted her some winners, but Swiatek’s ability to measure up to the pace yielded more fire from her side of the court. The three-time Grand Slam champion was able to turn many of the rallies upside down as she tilted the court in Cirstea’s direction with her relentless baseline game.

Cirstea applied some scoreboard pressure early in the first, reclaiming a break, but lost her grip while serving at 2-3 as Swiatek ran through the next three games to take the set. In the second set Swiatek sprinted out to a 4-0 lead and put a dip behind her as she converted her second match point to end Cirstea’s day.

21-year-old Swiatek improves to 16-3 on the season and 12-1 lifetime at Indian Wells, as she sets a clash with Elena Rybakina, the woman who sent her packing from 2023’s first Grand Slam.

Rybakina scored the 6-4, 6-4 victory over Swiatek in the round of 16 at this year’s Australian Open, and immediately after that difficult loss the Pole talked of switching up her mindset.

“I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard,” she said at the time. “So I’m going to try to chill out a little bit more. That’s all.”

Swiatek certainly been relaxed during the Indian Wells fortnight – and imperious. She has dropped just 19 games and won every set she played; the Polish juggernaut seems to get more dangerous with each passing round.

“I’m happy that I played so intense that I could start both sets well,” Swiatek said of her victory over Cirstea. “I feeling like handling things pretty well, and just playing my game.”

Rybakina Makes History For Kazakhstan

Karolina Muchova made the most of her BNP Paribas Open debut, grinding all the way to the quarterfinals, but the 26-year-old former World No.19 couldn’t slide past Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Friday despite playing magnificent tennis throughout the pair’s high-quality quarterfinal contest in Stadium 1 on Thursday.

Instead, it was World No.10 Rybakina’s time to shine once again.

Rybakina delivered in the pressure moments, and became the first woman from Kazhakstan to take her place in the semifinals at Indian Wells, inching past Muchova 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4.

Ranked 76th in the world, Muchova entered today’s quarterfinal showdown owning a 1-0 lifetime record over the 2022 Wimbledon champion, and she held sway over the play in the opening set, but when it came time to close it out nerves got the best of her. Muchova missed an overhead on set point while serving at 5-4, and ended up dropping the set, 7-6(4).

“I didn’t start the match so good,” Rybakina later said. “I was a bit low on energy. Didn’t move that well. Didn’t serve also. So it was already struggle from the beginning.

“Also, Karolina, she played really well, she was opening the court and using these slow conditions. It was difficult for me to get free points.”

Muchova’s fine play continued.

Using all of her diverse skill set, the talented Czech took control of Rybakina in the middle set, breaking twice to force a decider, but nerves played a part in her ultimate downfall in the decider, as she double-faulted to hand the No.10 seed a break of serve for 2-1 in the final set.

It would prove to be all Rybakina needed. The 2022 Wimbledon champion had the perfect response to dropping her first set of the tournament, as she dialed in her world-class serve and won 15 of 16 first-serve points and never faced a break point in set three.

When Muchova threatened to break back in the final game of the match by taking a 0-30 lead, nerves played a part again; the Czech missed two critical forehands long to allow Rybakina to settle her nerves and finish off the match.

“I served much better in the third,” Rybakina said on court after the match. “I didn’t start that well in the beginning of the match, I was a bit slower than usual and here the conditions are not that easy for me.

“In the end, in the important moments I played well.”

Rybakina, who ranks third in percentage of service games won on the WTA Tour in 2023, cranked her sixth ace of the match – a searing 115 MPH drive down the T – to end an entertaining tussle in two hours and 45 minutes.

She will face World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the semifinals on Friday.

Rybakina has split the pair’s two previous meetings, including a victory in their last tussle, 6-4, 6-4 in the round of 16 at this year’s Australian Open.

“In Australia I just know that when I went to play against her, I had really nothing to lose. She’s No. 1 and kind of pressure on her in that moment,” Rybakina said.

But she knows their will be very little margin for error against Swiatek this time around.

“It also depends a lot how physically I feel,” Rybakina said. “I’m kind of realistic in these things. I know that, of course, if I am gonna bring my best tomorrow, there is chances that I’m gonna win.

“If it’s gonna be a bit of a drop like today, maybe in the second set when it was very quick, first three games of the second set, then of course the chances are less just because she’s No. 1 and she’s very consistent, so there is not many margin to mistakes, I will say.”


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