Incredible Iga closing in on second RG crown

 - Simon Cambers

World No.1 crushes Kasatkina to claim 34th consecutive match-win and reach another final in Paris

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Dames, 1/2 Finale, Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

World No.1 Iga Swiatek reached the Roland-Garros final for the second time in three years with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 win over 20th seed Daria Kasatkina on Thursday.

In warm sunshine, the 2020 champion was tested early on but pulled away from the middle of the first set and clinched a convincing victory after 64 minutes.

It was her 34th straight victory, the joint-second longest streak on the WTA tour since 2000, one behind Venus Williams.

The Pole, who is now 20-2 at Roland-Garros, will play the winner of the second semi-final between American Coco Gauff and Italy’s Martina Trevisan.

Story of the match

Swiatek had beaten Kasatkina handily in each of their three meetings earlier in 2022 but Kasatkina said she hoped it would not count for much, since she was recovering from Covid-19 at the time.

Swiatek began strongly with a good hold and then immediately put pressure on the Kasatkina serve.

Kasatkina, who had not dropped a set en route to the semi-final, saved three break points, one with an ace and another with a drop volley, but a backhand in the net gave Swiatek the break for 2-0. However, the No.20 seed was mixing up her game cleverly, trying not to give Swiatek the same shot twice and she broke back.

Daria Kasatkina, Roland Garros 2022, semi-final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

A beautifully constructed point from Swiatek, on a 26-shot rally, gave her the chance to break again but she put an awkward short forehand long. Kasatkina, finding a good rhythm on first serve, held for 2-2.

Swiatek crunched a couple of big forehands to move ahead again at 3-2. At 15-30 in the next game, Kasatkina looked set to win the point only to produce a horrible miss on top of the net with the court at her mercy.

That was effectively the end of the set as a contest as Swiatek began to cut loose, winning nine of the next 10 points to move ahead.

Both players held serve to start the second set but then Swiatek stormed clear again, holding to love and then breaking to lead 3-1 thanks to a big backhand winner and a forehand that Kasatkina could not control and sent over the baseline.

The Swiatek forehand was utterly devastating, forcing Kasatkina back and then rearing up high, making it tough to control. She held for 4-1, broke to love and then showed no signs of nerves as she finished with her first ace for win number 34 in a row and a place in her second Grand Slam final.

"Grateful to be in the final again," Swiatek scribbled on the camera lens after her win.

Key stats

Not surprisingly for a one-sided match, Swiatek dominated almost every category in terms of the statistics, hitting 22 winners to Kasatkina’s 10 and making just 13 unforced errors to her opponent’s 24.

But it was on serve where the biggest differential occurred. Swiatek won 79 per cent of points on first serve and 58 per cent on second serve. By contrast, Kasatkina’s serve was ripped apart by the Swiatek return, winning just 44 per cent of points on the first serve and only 21 per cent (three points out of 14) on second.

A rare category in which Kasatkina had a better percentage was on break points converted, taking the only one she had. But Swiatek broke five times, crushing everything she had a look at.

What the players said

“It’s a pretty special moment, I’m really emotional, I’m so grateful to be in that place, to be healthy and able to play that game. I love playing here," said Swiatek in her on-court interview.

“It’s easier to play matches with that kind of support. I’ve felt it in every place I played this year, basically, which is still surprising for me.

“I try to treat every match the same because when I’m going to realise this is one of the biggest matches of the season, it’s going to stress me out. I listen to music coming out onto the court. Today was Led Zeppelin. It is really pumping me up.”

On being inspired by Rafael Nadal, Swiatek said: “Oh my God, he is inspiring me basically in every aspect both on court and off the court, he’s so humble, he’s so down to earth.

"On court, I saw a few matches live…when I watched this year’s Australian Open final, oh my God, it was just overwhelming really, even I had doubts, I could see how he was trying to find solutions, trying to get better in the match, and he did, and he won. He's an inspiration."