Iga Swiatek is through to her first Australian Open semifinal after clawing her way back from a set down to defeat Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
The Polish seventh seed was made to work hard by the world No. 115 and struggled with the powerful game produced by the Estonian. Yet, Swiatek rose to the challenge, walking out a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 victory in three hours on Rod Laver Arena.
"I'm pretty proud of myself, especially after matches like that, because, you know, coming back from losing first set it's a new thing for me," Swiatek said in her press conference.
"So, yeah, I mean, being in the semifinal is great."
Swiatek was far from convincing but had the ability to get through the match while not playing at her best - a sign of a true champion.
The Pole was rarely afforded the opportunity to play the match on her terms early on. Being a clay court player, Swiatek likes to grind her opponents down through lengthy rallies.
"I actually wanted to prolong some, I don't know, rallies to make her more tired, because, really, I have big trust in myself in terms of my, you know, physical shape," Swiatek said.
"So that match showed that actually it's smart to trust myself in that matter."
In fact, Swiatek won 26 points for the match when the rally length was 9+ shots, whereas Kanepi only won five points. Conversely, when the rally length was between 0-4 shots, Kanepi won 82 points compared to Swiatek’s 63.
Early on, the match was hotly contested and could’ve gone either way. Swiatek hit 13 winners compared to 14 from Kanepi as the pair traded blows from the baseline. However, Kanepi gained the edge due to Swiatek’s poor serving. The Pole double-faulted twice in one game, causing the only break of serve for the set.
In fact, Swiatek surpassed her previous high of 10 double faults in a single match by hitting 12. Swiatek will be hoping to fix that up before her semi-final against American Danielle Collins.
The second set was as contested as the first, although Swiatek raced out to a 4-1 lead. However, it didn’t last long as the Estonian fought back to take the match to a tiebreak. Swiatek ran away with the tiebreak to take it to a deciding set.
The Pole had finally found her rhythm and pulled away from Kanepi in the deciding set to take it 6-3.
The one thing that hurt Kanepi was her unforced error count - an issue that arises with her game style. The Estonian hit 22 unforced errors in the final set and 62 in total for the match which was ultimately what stopped her from reaching the semi-finals.
As for Swiatek, she now faces Collins - a player she has a 1-0 H2H lead over after the American was forced to retire at the Adelaide 500 in 2021.
"I will approach it the same as any other match, really. I have played with some heavy hitters on this tournament already, so I feel like I'm, you know, feeling their game on my racquet pretty well," Swiatek said.
"I mean, you know, that two matches showed me that even in tough moments I can, you know, come back, and I have, you know, skills to win matches even when they are really hard.
"For sure it's gonna be hard, and she's in great shape, you can see that, and really like confident. But I also feel that way. I just hope it's gonna be a good match."