TENNIS

Swiatek rode a 33-game winning streak in Paris; reminds Pegula de Barty

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PARIS (AP) – Jessica Pegula reached the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros before coming up against Iga Swiatek on Wednesday, who does not seem to lose. And four months ago, in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, Pegula reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open before meeting eventual champion Ash Barty.

Two majors, two good runs, two encounters with the No. 1 player at the time. So Pegula, a 28-year-old New Yorker, can offer a somewhat unique perspective on what it’s like to face Swiatek and Barty, who retired in March at 25.

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Swiatek, who replaced Barty at the top of the WTA rankings, benefited from the chair umpire’s lack of appeal on a double rebound that gave him a first break of serve in a key five-game streak and advanced to the semi-finals at Roland Garros beating Pegula 6.-3, 6-2 to extend her winning streak to 33 matches.

Swiatek’s run is the longest on tour since Serena Williams won 34 in a row in 2013.

“To be honest, she kinda plays like a guy. And, I mean, Ash was in a similar way, where they don’t play like a typical girl where they kind of hit flat and the ball goes in. kind of on the court. She plays a little less orthodox in that she has, like, a really heavy forehand,” Pegula said of Swiatek, “but at the same time she also likes to step in and take it very early on, and I think the clay gives him more time, and I think that makes his forehand even more difficult to manage.

Swiatek will face No. 20 Daria Kasatkina in a women’s semifinal on Thursday, while the other will be No. 18 Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American, against Martina Trevisan, a 28-year-old Italian.

Gauff and her partner, Pegula, are also in the women’s doubles semifinals.

Of the last four women in singles, only Swiatek has ever made the semi-finals of a major tournament, losing at this point at the Australian Open in January and winning the title at the 2020 French Open while she was ranked outside the top 50.

“This year is a bit different, because I’m not an underdog,” she said, “and everything has changed, honestly.”

Kasatkina defeated number 29 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-6(5) in a match between two Russian players who will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon later this month due to the invasion of Ukraine by this country. They combined for 75 unforced errors, 50 by Kudermetova.

“It was a roller coaster,” said Kasatkina, who hadn’t reached a major quarter-final in four years.

In the men’s quarter-finals on Wednesday, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic advanced to the French Open semi-finals for the first time by hitting 33 aces to defeat No. 7 Andrey Rublev 5 -7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7 -6 (10-2) in 4 hours, 10 minutes.

20th seed Cilic, who is 33, will now face eighth seed Casper Ruud on Friday for a place in the final. Ruud, a 23-year-old Norwegian, reached his first Grand Slam semi-final beating 19-year-old Dane Holger Rune 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final quarter of final.

A day after his 21st birthday, Swiatek wasn’t at his best against 11th-seeded Pegula, whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. As usual for most of this season, Swiatek was good enough to find himself on the safe side of the score. She hasn’t lost a game since February, winning her last five tournaments.

The persistent pressure applied to opponents is another similarity that Pegula sees between Swiatek and Barty.

“You have those few chances and you kind of feel like it’s weighing on you that if you don’t take advantage of them you’re like, ‘Shoot, my chance was gone, and now I have to work so hard to either hold serve or come back. in this game’ or whatever,” Pegula said. “Mentally, that’s also what they do so well and what I tried to do better.”

On a sunny afternoon at Court Philippe Chatrier, with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), Swiatek’s start was poor for the second game in a row, although she found herself with almost twice more winners than 30-year-old Pegula. at 16.

“I feel like the ball is flying a bit faster,” Swiatek said, “so I had to adapt to that, of course.”

She was down 3-2 in the first set, and it was 3-all when she got a break point while Pegula was serving.

Pegula attempted a bunt, and Swiatek ran towards him, reaching out to flip the ball over the net at an impossible angle. Pegula couldn’t get that answer, and the point went to Swiatek, giving him a 4-3 advantage.

But, as Pegula later saw on a replay on the hanging video board, it shouldn’t have: the ball landed a second time in Swiatek’s side of the net before going out of his key. Chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph should have ruled the point belonged to Pegula, but he failed to notice the double rebound; unlike some other tournaments, Roland-Garros officials cannot view the video.

“I was like, ‘There’s no way she’s got this.’ I was like, ‘Seriously?!'” Pegula said during her press conference. “I looked at (Joseph) and he didn’t call him. You can’t say anything. And the problem is once they make up their mind you can’t go back and change it. “

From there, Swiatek wouldn’t drop another game until she was leading by one set and 1-0 in the second. In all, she has won 10 of the last 12 matches.

When a reporter mentioned this double bounce, Swiatek seemed to stifle a smile, as if anticipating the question.

“If it was two rebounds, then I’m sorry,” she said, noting, “These moments are quite tricky, because it’s all up to the referee.”

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