Iga Swiatek’s dream season continued as she defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 in the Miami Open quarter-finals to close in on a third successive WTA 1000 crown.
The new World No 1 won the title in Doha and then Indian Wells and now has an excellent chance of becoming only the fourth woman in history to win the Sunshine Double - triumphing in California and Florida in the same year - following Steffi Graf (1994 and 1996), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Victoria Azarenka (2016).
Swiatek, who has now won 15 successive WTA tour matches, is the form player in the women’s game at the moment and American Jessica Pegula, who reached the last four earlier in the day after fifth seed Paula Badosa was forced to retire because of illness midway through the first set, will have her work cut out attempting to stop the Polish 20-year-old when they meet on Thursday for a place in the final.
Czech star Kvitova was on the backfoot once she was broken in the first set as Swiatek’s excellent hitting, especially from the back of the court, and her serve ultimately proved the difference.
The two-time Wimbledon champion fought hard, but Swiatek was able to maintain her aggressive, attacking game and when she broke for 3-2 in the second set, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the 32-year-old now ranked 32nd in the world.
“I want to use the confidence I have had since the start of the year and I am on a roll,” Swiatek said after winning in one hour and 14 minutes.
“I am just so happy I can compete against legends like Petra. I knew I had to keep up with the pace as she plays fast and I think my first serve was the key.”
Pegula goes into her second WTA 1000 semi-final well rested after her round of 16 match against Anhelina Kalinina only lasted a set before the Ukrainian retired.
The same fate then befell Spain’s fifth-seeded Badosa in the quarters on Wednesday, as she conceded the contest with the score at 4-1 to the American.
Pegula, whose parents own the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise, has spent just three hours and 22 minutes on court in her four matches so far and said: “I’ve definitely played really, really clean tennis the last two sets.
“I think that’s helped, I don’t want to say get a retirement, but sometimes you just never know how someone is going to react when they get out there, even though you know they are not feeling well.
“I think from Paula’s last match I could tell that she probably wasn’t going to be 100% by today, but again, I have no idea what happened or how she was feeling or if she recovered or if it was quick.
“It’s just hard to know in those situations. It can be kind of awkward. I am just trying to focus on myself and play the best tennis I could, and I’ve been able to do that.”
Ruud in first hard-court Masters semi-final
Casper Ruud beat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to reach the Miami Open semi-finals on Wednesday and compound a difficult start to the year for the World No 4.
The Norwegian will meet Argentine surprise package Francisco Cerundolo for a place in Sunday’s final after the 23-year-old, playing in his debut ATP Masters event and ranked 103rd in the world, made the last four when Italian Jannik Sinner was forced to retire because of a blister on his right foot at 4-1 down in the first set.
Cerundolo is the lowest ranked Miami semi-finalist in tournament history, surpassing Sebastien Grosjean who was ranked 74th in 1999.
Ruud will compete in a hard court semi-final at this level for the first time after reaching the same stage on clay at the Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome in the last couple of years.
For Germany’s Zverev, however, an early exit in Indian Wells was followed by more disappointment in Florida.
Ruud, the sixth seed from Norway came into the tournament having never won a match in Miami but found himself up against the inconsistent second seed, who recovered impressively from a shaky start only to run out of steam by the end of an entertaining tussle at Hard Rock Stadium.
Ruud received medical attention on his right foot before the start of the third but was showing no ill effects as he quickly broke for a 2-0 lead.
The match had turned once again and it was the Norwegian who produced some blistering winners to seal his place in Friday’s semis and leave Zverev, who is still waiting for his first title of 2022, crestfallen.
The other men’s semi-final match up will be decided on Thursday, when defending champion Herbert Hurkacz takes on Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals with the Russian set to return to number one in the world if he wins. Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, 18, faces Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the remaining quarter-final.