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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, April 19, 2024


Defending champion Iga Swiatek beat Emma Raducanu 7-6(2), 6-3 to raise her Stuttgart record to 10-0 and set up a semifinal clash vs. Elena Rybakina.

Photo credit: Porsche Tennis Open Facebook

Three parked Porsches shined over her shoulder as Iga Swiatek down shifted her game to a higher gear.

In a quality clash of major champions, Swiatek accelerated past Emma Raducanu 7-6(2), 6-3, to power into the Stuttgart semifinals for the third straight season.

More: The Greatest Men Clay-Court Champions of All Time

Two-time defending champion Swiatek raised her Stuttgart record to a perfect 10-0.

"Yeah, for sure it was intense, a lot of tough games, a lot of chances," Swiatek told the media in Stuttgart. "So I'm happy that I used to some of them, and I got the lead in both sets. Good finish and strong at the end."

Growing in confidence and aggression as this match progressed, Swiatek was driving the ball down the line with command in improving to 24-3 in 2024.

The 22-year-old Swiatek is the third woman to win her first 10 matches in Stuttgart after Hall of Famer Tracy Austin and Maria Sharapova.

Prior to the start of her title defense, Swiatek said she drives the Porsche she received for winning the 2022 championship, around town when she’s home in Poland.

The world No. 1 is now two wins away from assembling her own Porsche fleet.

Swiatek will try to ride the winning road into Saturday’s semifinal blockbuster vs. Elena Rybakina.

Playing her first clay tournament of the season, Rybakina dispatched Dubai champion Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

The 2022 Wimbledon winner Rybakina ripped seven aces raising her 2024 record to 24-4.

Rybakina has beaten Swiatek in three of five meetings, including in Rome last May when the world No. 1 retired from their quarterfinal deadlocked 2-all in the final set.

The big-serving Rybakina has scored six Top 10 wins this season and knows she must serve her best to beat Swiatek on dirt.

“It's always of course tough to play against Iga, and I feel like we pushing each other till the limits,” Rybakina told the media in Stuttgart. “I remember when this year when we played exhibition and you're just coming out of preseason and it's very tough. She started really intense, and I'm, like, I need to keep it up (smiling).

“II think it's nice to play against her. Of course I want to win, but I need to be also realistic. She's very good player on clay. She's maybe a little bit more favorite now, but again, if I play well, I serve well, I move good, I have all the chances. So I'm just happy to play against her.”

Trying to rebuild her ranking after four surgeries shortened her 2023 season, Raducanu should be pleased with her fast start and sustained competitiveness against the world No. 1 today—especially given this was just her 13th career clay-court match.

The 2021 US Open champion broke to open this third meeting between major champions. Raducanu had a game point to hold and set up a forehand sitter, but scattered that shot long.

Working through a 12-minute game, Swiatek slammed a forehand down the line converting her third break point to break back.

World No. 303 Raducanu was striking on the run with accuracy but ran into self-created issues in sixth game. Raducanu missed a pair of backhands to face a break point.

Raducanu received a reprieve after she was initially called with a double fault to give away the break. The chair umpire ruled the second serve was good and that the faulty out call didn’t hinder Swiatek, who missed the return.

Instead of dropping serve, Raducanu made the most of that second chance and held to even after six games.

Swiatek stamped successive love holds for a 5-4 lead.

The 21-year-old Briton stayed in step, sliding a forehand winner down the line then spinning a short-angled backhand crosscourt to level, 5-all.

Playing for her first career Top 10 win, Raducanu held at love to force the tiebreaker.

Amping up her aggression, Swiatek smacked three winners powering out to a 5-1 tiebreaker lead.

Drilling a diagonal forehand brought Swiatek a fistful of set points. The top seed closed a quality 70-minute set on a Raducanu error.

As the match progressed, Swiatek was driving the ball down the line with more frequency.

Setting her feet, Swiatek slashed a backhand down the line breaking at love to start the second set.

Even when the powerful Pole wasn’t hitting clean winners off that stroke, she was effective coaxing Raducanu to play back to her heavy topspin forehand which Swiatek was striking with menacing intent.

"She started playing at the beginning pretty loose, like she had nothing to lose, and I totally get that," Swiatek said. "Sometimes it is like that. But I knew I was kind of questioning if she's going to be able to keep the same intensity throughout the whole match.

"It wasn't about service games or return games. I was just the waiting for my chances to break back and I was sure that I'm going to get them."

The two-time defending champion confirmed the break for a one-set, 2-0 lead.

Racing to her right, Raducanu slipped and crashed to the red clay. The Briton arose with a swath of salmon-colored clay streaking the back of her ivory-colored Nike dress.

Showing toughness, Raducanu shook off that fall and fired a forehand down the line saving a break point. A clever drop shot and crackling serve down the T helped Raducanu solve stress and get on the board in the second set.

Though Raducanu was trying to step in and take returns on the rise, the depth of Swiatek’s drives were jarring. Swiatek scored her second shutout game of the set—and fourth of the match–for 3-1.

Survival instincts kicked in as Raducanu repelled three break points to hold in the fifth game.

When Raducanu sailed one final forehand, Swiatek closed in two hours, three minutes defeating the 2021 US Open champion for the third time in as many meetings.

In today’s first quarterfinal of Grand Slam champions, Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova converted seven of eight break points upsetting two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

"I'm very happy with my match today," Vondrousova told the media in Stuttgart. "I think it was a great one, a tough one.

"She's a fighter, and I think we played a great match. Yeah, we broke each other couple of times, so I think it was a very good match."

The Olympic silver medalist fended off nine of 15 break points and exploited nine double faults from Sabalenka, including four doubles in the final set, to beat the world No. 2 for the first time since the 2018 Indian Wells.

It is Vondrousova’s first Top 10 win since her wondrous run to the 2023 Wimbledon championship.

“I didn't play after Indian Wells for a couple of weeks, so I didn't know what to expect maybe,” Vondrousova told the media in Stuttgart. “Yeah, I think most important thing, it's for me, for my head, just to know that I can keep up with these players and just play close matches with them and actually, like, win the match. So I think, yeah, it's mostly, like, for me just to know you can do it.”

Next up for Vondrousova is either US Open champion Coco Gauff or Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk.


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