Swiatek Wraps A Very Happy Week In Adelaide

Iga Swiatek (photo: James Elsby/Tennis Australia)

ADELAIDE/WASHINGTON, February 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The Australian Summer Swing came to an exciting conclusion Saturday evening as Polish trailblazer Iga Swiatek won the Adelaide International in South East Australia. She earned her first WTA hardcourt title in just her third tour final with a dominating 6-2, 6-2 victory over Belinda Bencic.

If you blinked, you might have missed Swiatek’s near-flawless 62-minute performance that was all-too-brief but such a joy to appreciate.

“I would say that this tournament is kind of the high of the year,” Swiatek said during her post-match press conference. “For sure, I felt really confident here and really solid on court.”

In just her third tournament since winning Roland Garros, the World No. 18 Swiatek showed no major letdown this week following her fourth-round finish earlier this month the Australian Open, where she lost to Simona Halep in three sets. Instead, Swiatek cruised to five straight victories in Adelaide without nary a set dropped. In fact, she lost just 22 games the entire week.

“It’s good for me because I can see that I can play good tennis for the whole week,” Swiatek said. “It wasn’t like one time during the French Open. It gives me more confidence that I’m, like, [a] more developed player and I can play good more often. I’m really happy about that.”

Before this week, Swiatek had never made it to a hardcourt quarterfinal. Now, she’s garnered her second career WTA title, thanks no less to hitting 22 sizzling winners while committing just six unforced errors in the title match.

Meanwhile, there will be better days ahead for World No. 12 Bencic, just four years older than the 19-year-old Swiatek and playing in her 11th WTA final to three for her opponent. She arrived at the final after outlasting American teenager Coco Gauff in a lengthy, two hour and 45-minute semifinal on Friday. However, while Bencic later admitted to media that it didn’t take too much out of her, one has to wonder whether she had much left to give against Swiatek in their first career head-to-head meeting. She hit just 11 winners while committing 18 unforced errors.

“Physically, I felt totally fine,” Bencic said. “Mentally, I felt like today I was not in the same kind of state, kind of vision that I had yesterday. I felt a little bit off. I was struggling kind of with her game. I never knew where she’s going to play. She played like it was overwhelming for me.”

Bencic’s last title run was 16 months ago in Moscow, what must seem like an eternity following time away from tour due to injuries and the pandemic. While she didn’t face any Top 50 players in her run up to the Adelaide final – and hasn’t beaten a Top 20 opponent since 2019, now, she’ll have to wait a little bit longer. That’s because there was nothing that Bencic could muster to stop the athleticism of her overpowering, youthful opponent – and the Swiss’s eight double faults didn’t help her cause.

“Definitely, I think the double-faults, again, I’m not so confident on my second serve yet,” Bencic said, when asked by Tennis TourTalk if there was anything in hindsight, she would have liked to have done differently against Swiatek. “Right now, I’m not so confident on my serve. But I think I improved. In Melbourne, it was much, much worse. Also, I think it’s a result that she was serving well. So, I felt [a] little bit more pressure on my service games.”

Swiatek, who was bidding for her seventh Top 20 win of her brief pro career, won the 35-minute opening set. It was highlighted by a lengthy 16-point eighth game that featured five deuces. Swiatek hit 11 winners – the last one with plenty of heavy topspin for a return winner to take the set – and kept her unforced errors to a bare minimum of three. Swiatek took advantage of six double faults by Bencic and converted two of three break points, outpointing the Swiss 32-21.

The 32-minute second set didn’t get any easier for Bencic as Swiatek continued to outmaneuver her all about the Memorial Drive Centre Court, winning many key points with her lethal forehand returns. She opened up an insurmountable 4-1 lead after winning 12 points in a row. By the end of the match, Swiatek had won a career-best 91 percent (20 of 22) of her first-serve points and lost just six points overall on her serve. She was not taken to deuce in any of her eight service games and overall outpointed Bencic 59-34.

As her sit down with media neared its conclusion, Tennis TourTalk asked Swiatek if winning her first tour-level title provided her with a different kind of experience than winning a Grand Slam. She gave the question some thought and replied: “Obviously, it is different because I felt like this past week was really kind of calm for me. It’s different in Adelaide compared to Paris. I’m not saying it’s worse or better, it’s just different. The city here is really kind of quiet. Also, I’ve never actually experienced playing a final with the full stadium. Hard for me to compare these two things. … Our goals [is] to treat every match the same way. That prevents me to have higher expectations or be more stressed. So, it’s good.”

Perhaps, one sentence summed up Swiatek’s mindset best: “I’m really happy I have weeks like [this] and I can win tournaments.”

Guarachi/Krawczyk win doubles title

The third-seeded team of Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States won the Adelaide International doubles title with a come-from-behind 6-7 (4), 6-4, 10-3 victory over unseeded Hayley Carter of the United States and Luisa Stefani from Brazil.

The Roland Garros finalists saved five of seven break points and converted four of six opportunities. Guarachi and Krawczyk outpointed their opponents 100-94. It was the second title match of the year for Carter and Stefani after playing in the Abu Dhabi final in January.

“If I had to think of a couple of words to put together for this week, it was like we had each other’s back; we played like a team through the good and bad. We stuck together,” said Guarachi during her team’s post-match press conference. Krawczyk added: “It’s definitely been great here. We’re just going to piggyback on that for the next couple of weeks.”

By the numbers

• While Iga Swiatek needed just three tournaments to win her first tour-level title after winning he first Grand Slam, according to the WTA, only seven active first-time Grand Slam champions required fewer – and only four of those did it at 500/Premier/Tier II level or higher: Venus Williams (one, at Stanford in 2000); Victoria Azarenka (one, at Doha in 2012); Simona Halep (two, at Montreal in 2018) and Ashleigh Barty (one, at Birmingham in 2019).

• Swiatek improved to 9-1 in all professional competition finals (after going 7-0 in ITF-level finals). Her only pro final loss? It came against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog in 2019 at Lugano.)

• At 19 years and 272 days, Swiatek is the youngest title winner on the WTA tour this year.

What they’re saying

• During her trophy speech, Iga Swiatek said: “Speeches are the hardest part for me. So, I’m sorry if it’s going to be a bit hectic. I’d like to congratulate Belinda. I read somewhere this is your eleventh final. So, hopefully, I’m going to also play as good as you in future years and we’re going to play many more matches versus each other.”

• Alexa Guarachi, during the trophy presentation, commented about the size of the crowd at Memorial Drive for the women’s doubles final:

“We got the goosebumps at the beginning of the 10-point tiebreaker,” Guarachi said. Later during press, she added: “I think it was amazing playing front of all these fans. Especially going through [Australian Open], having the fans, then not the fans, it was great. It just brings a different kind of energy out there. It kind of helps you pick up our level up almost, our game level, because of all the energy. I think it was a great atmosphere out there. I think it definitely helped us. We tried to use it to our advantage.”