Sunday, February 26, 2023

Beware of kryptonite in the desert

World number 1 Iga Swiatek practically waltzed to the final in Doha, albeit she had some help with both a bye and a walkover (from Belinda Bencic). She defeated Danielle Collins 6-0, 6-1, and she defeated Veronika Kudermetova with the same scoreline. Those two victories were shocking enough, but then she defeated 2nd seed Jessie Pegula 6-3, 6-0 in the final. 

Seemingly fresh from spending so little time on court in Doha, Swiatek moved on to Dubai, where she again had both a bye and a walkover (from Karolina Pliskova). She defeated Leylah Fernandez 6-1, 6-1, and Liudmila Samsonova 6-1, 6-0 (another shocking scoreline), then Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2.

But in the final, as Swiatek sought to win the Desert Double, she had to deal with Barbora Krejcikova, who defeated her in the Ostrava final, a match that was so amazing in every way, I still think about it. The Czech star has been on a dramatic comeback tour since having to drop out for a while because of an elbow injury. In Dubai, she defeated the likes of Dasha Kasatina, Petra Kvitova, 2nd seed (and world number 2) Aryna Sabalenka, and 3rd seed (and world number 3) Jessie Pegula.

Sometimes, when a player does that kind of heavy lifting in a tournament, she doesn't have much left by the time she gets to the final. And imagine that that final is to be played against the world number 1, who has been dispensing bagels as though she were heir to a famous New York City bakery. And then imagine that the world number 1 hasn't really spent that much time on court. Oh--and that she was eager to get some revenge following the Ostrava final.

Krejcikova apparently didn't trouble herself with any of those facts. She defeated Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 with excellent serving (first and second serve win stats of 70%/57%), and by reading the court expertly, hanging in with Swiatek during long rallies, and interrupting the Polish star's rhythm. Swiatek was able to convert only one of six break opportunities.

Commentator Claire Curran remarked that Krejcikova is an expert disruptor, but that it is also very hard to disrupt her. Curran said that she thought that these were the traits to which Krejcikova was referring when she said that she had used her doubles skills to defeat Swiatek in Ostava.

In completing her Dubai run, the Czech player became the fifth woman to defeat the three top-ranked players in the world at a tournament.

Swiatek and Krejcikova are now 2-2 against each other, and Krejciova has won both of their finals. Is Krejcivkova now in Swiatek's head, or is the world number 1 immune to that sort of thing? Regardless, it may be a good idea for Swiatek to line her cap with some lead the next time she meets Krejcikova in a final.

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