Swiatek Wins Fourth Straight WTA Title, First In Stuttgart

Iga Swiatek (photo: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix)

STUTTGART/WASHINGTON, April 24, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final between a pair of Top-5 stars, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland and World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, was the culmination of a week of outstanding and highly-entertaining tennis to start the 2022 European clay season.

In the third meeting between Swiatek and Sabalenka and first on clay, which broke the 1-1 tie in their career head-to-head series, it was all Swiatek. The 20-year-old Polish star won 6-2, 6-2 in an economical one hour and 24 minutes that rewarded her with a fourth straight WTA title this season and first in Stuttgart in her tournament debut at Porsche Arena.

Swiatek’s victory over Sabalenka extended her winning streak to 23 straight. Her 30-3 win-loss record is best in the WTA and she’s won 32 of her last 33 sets. Sabalenka dropped to 10-6 in WTA singles finals.

Before the match, Swiatek said: “Aryna, she’s a great player and everybody knows that. I have to be ready for everything and just focus on myself, be aggressive and solid. We’re going to see. I just hope it’s going to be a good match.”

The title match lived up to its billing with Swiatek hitting 17 winners against 20 unforced errors while breaking Sabalenka’s serve four times in eight opportunities – and, arguably her opponent’s spirit with each additional break of serve. Swiatek outpointed the Belarusian 61-44. Sabalenka finished with six double faults and 39 unforced errors. She was unsuccessful in breaking Swiatek’s serve in both of her attempts.

From the beginning, Swiatek raced out to a 3-0 lead with a break of Sabalenka in her opponent’s first service game. She built the lead to 4-1 by saving a break point, then gained a set point at 15-40 with her steady variety of solid groundstrokes hit from both wings. Swiatek won the 37-minute opener after Sabalenka struck her third double fault. Swiatek, who outpointed Sabalenka 30-19, made just eight unforced errors to 18 for her opponent. A telling stat: Swiatek is 25-1 this season after winning the first set.

Next, Swiatek got off to a nice, positive start in the second set when she held at 30. She won a 22-shot rally after a Sabalenka backhand from behind the baseline fell short of its mark and hit the net. Then, at 3-2, Swiatek saved three games points and gained a break point against Sabalenka with a nice backhand winner down the line. She broke with a fourth-shot backhand winner to go ahead 4-2. Instead of celebrating the break, she kept her foot on the gas pedal and continued to apply pressure on Sabalenka.

At 4-2, 40-30, Swiatek held when she deftly hit a fifth-shot volley that Sabalenka wasn’t able to react to in time. It lifted her lead to 5-2, just a game away from winning her fourth straight title and increasing her winning streak to 23 straight. Swiatek wasted no time in gaining match point in the next game on Sabalenka’s serve. Then, on her third match-point opportunity, she won after Sabalenka sailed a third-shot forehand long.

Swiatek reacted jubilantly by jumping up and down, pumping her right fist in the air. She looked toward her box and held out four fingers, signifying her fourth straight title. It was also her seventh career title. All have been won in straight sets.

The 2020 French Open champion advanced to the title match, her fourth consecutive final, with a three-hour and three-minute semifinal win over World No. 31 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia. It was the longest match of her pro career. After advancing through the draw with straight-set efficiency, the top-seeded Swiatek showed a resilient side to her tennis in garnering her sixth come-from-behind victory this season Saturday as she continued her chase after her fourth straight WTA title following back-to-back-back success in winning a trio of 1000-level crowns at Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. Swiatek leads the WTA with 29 victories.

After her 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 semifinal victory, Swiatek told the WTA Insider, “I honestly hate losing but I don’t think that’s a proper thing to motivate you. Basically, you just don’t want to give up. It’s just natural for me and for other players. We were born to fight and to not give up. Before it was pretty hard for me to do that because it was hard to find solutions when my head was all over the emotions.

“Now, I feel like I can control them, maybe not perfectly, but at least in those important moments and find solutions and come back to a good game again.”

Swiatek did more than control her emotions in all the important moments of the final.

Meanwhile, Sabalenka, 23, took on all comers in the 28-player draw – former Top 5 Bianca Andreescu, current World No. 6 Anett Kontaveit, and soon-to-be World No. 2 Paula Badosa – and won each one with authority and purpose to reach her 16th career final, first of this season, and second straight in Stuttgart. Could the third-seeded Sabalenka win her third match against a Top-10 opponent this week, which would translate into her second title on clay and first in almost a year since she won last year’s Mutua Madrid Open? The answer turned out to be no, but not for a lack of trying.

“Now that she won three titles in a row, that’s not going to surprise me,” Sabalenka said. “I’ll be ready for this game, and I’ll be ready for a fight. The winners she’s going to make are not going to surprise me. I think mentally that’s going to give me a little power to compete, no matter what.”

Sabalenka added: “I think with every win you get stronger and stronger, like mentally. And you kind of have this confidence that no matter what you can comeback, you can find your game.”

As it happened, Swiatek prevented Sabalenka from finding her game. As everyone learned, winning never gets old and Swiatek handled the pressure of the moment best. To the victor went not only first-place prize money – 93,823 euros – and 470 WTA rankings points. She also won the grand prize of them all, a brand new red Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, which she got to take for a spin during the trophy ceremony.

“Now I know why everyone calls this one of the best tournaments in a season,” Swiatek said during the trophy ceremony. “Thank you for giving us energy.”

Krawczyk and Schuurs win doubles title

No. 2 seeds Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix doubles title, their first together as a team. They defeated No. 1 seeds Coco Gauff of the United States and Zhang Shuai of China, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 19 minutes.

Krawczyk and Schuurs broke their opponents twice and saved nine of the 10 break points they faced. They outpointed Gauff and Zhang 58-54, who were playing together for the first time.

The winners shared a first-prize purse of 31,452 euros and 470 WTA points.

By the numbers

Iga Swiatek’s victory, her 23rd straight win, tied her with Naomi Osaka’s 23-match winning streak set in 2020-21.

“Quotable …”

“Switching is always demanding because your head is going to tell you something different but you have to break through that and trust yourself that you can do some movements that you didn’t do on hard court.”

– World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, whose first match on clay this week in Stuttgart came four days after her last hard court match, as told to the WTA Insider.