Tennis

Warsaw | Garcia shocks Swiatek in quarter-finals

Caroline Garcia, always a danger, stunned Iga Swiatek and silenced her home crowd as the Frenchwoman pulled off a shock defeat of the World No 1 in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Poland Open in Warsaw on Friday.

I thought in a match scenario [her return] would be a bit less effective, coming from the fact that you’re much looser during a practice. She had a lot of quality. I have a good second serve and I thought it would do the job, but maybe, sometimes, I was serving too lightly. I have to admit that she was attacking so well that she was putting extreme pressure on me. Iga Świątek

The 1-6 6-1 4-6 loss brought Swiatek’s clay court winning streak of matches to an end, after seeing her 37-match winning run stopped at Wimbledon by another Frenchwoman, Alizé Cornet.

“It was a very important match, and I tried to be ready for it,” Garcia said later. “I started very strong, putting a lot of pressure on her.

“As soon as I got a bit lower intensity, she came back very strong, and that’s what is happening against a top player.”

It was Swiatek’s first clay loss since the 2021 French Open quarter-finals, despite being the strong favourite to win the WTA 250 tournament in her hometown of Warsaw, and the 21-year old will now prepare for the North American hard court swing, which starts on Monday.

In fact, The reigning Roland Garros champion had been 18-0 on clay in 2022, and had only dropped 2 sets on the surface this year, to Liudmila Samsonova and Zheng Qinwen, but Garcia put that winning streak to bed.

“I think Caroline played a much more solid match,” Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. “She put a lot of pressure on me and made it so I had very little time, especially on clay, where the bounces can be uneven,

“I didn’t have enough time to correct anything. Against a strong opponent, I felt that I didn’t have enough clay practice.

“Next year I will decide if the preparations will be longer or if I’ll stay on hard court [after Wimbledon].

“I don’t like coming out on the court and having, in the back of my mind, that I only had two clay practices.”

World No 1 Iga Swiatek found her powerful serve returned with interest by Caroline Garcia and suffered a rare defeat in Warsaw

BNP Paribas Poland Open/Facebook

Garcia won Bad Homburg last month and has regained the confidence that saw her rise to World No 4 in September 2018 with WTA 1000 titles at Wuhan and Beijing.

She stormed out of the blocks on Friday, standing inside the baseline to blast her returns off the Swiatek serve, using little backswing and pin-point accuracy.

She broke from the get-go, piling pressure on the Pole, and went on to break 3 times in the opening set as she fired 13 winners to just 4 unforced errors to keep the top seed on the back foot.

Garcia’s 2nd delivery, though, proved vulnerable, and the Frenchwoman struggled to hold onto her own serve, which kept Swiatek in the hunt in the second, and Swiatek quickly levelled the match by winning the longer rallies and reeling off 4 games in succession to level the match at a set all.

Surprisingly, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman came back even stronger in the decider, despite her disadvantage, powering off the ground by taking the ball on the rise, and firing forehand winners slightly out of position to turn defence into offence.

“We trained and it looked the same,” said Swiatek, who had practiced with Garcia during the week. “I thought in a match scenario [her return] would be a bit less effective, coming from the fact that you’re much looser during a practice.

“She had a lot of quality. I have a good second serve and I thought it would do the job, but maybe, sometimes, I was serving too lightly.

“ I have to admit that she was attacking so well that she was putting extreme pressure on me.

“It was hard to choose directions well enough to surprise her as she instinctively guessed it right most of the time.”

Swiatek had looked in strong form in her opening 2 matches in her hometown, only dropping 8 games.

The final set went on serve until Garcia broke in the 8th game and, while Swiatek hit back to prevent Her from serving out the match, the Pole then lost her serve again as she bowed out of the tournament to a near-silent crowd.

“I stayed positive, I kept believing in my game and the way I wanted to play, and the third set was definitely good tennis,” a delighted Garcia said afterwards.

She simply proved too good on the day, compiling almost twice as many winners as unforced errors, 38 to 22, to record her 2-hour 16-minute upset win, in which Swiatek had almost twice as many winners as errors herself, 20 to 12.

Kateryna Baindl from Ukraine came from a set down to upset 8th seed Petra Martic and will play Ana Bogdan in the semi-finals in Warsaw

BNP Paribas Poland Open/Facebook

The Frenchwoman becomes just the 5th woman to beat Swiatek this year, joining Ash Barty (Adelaide semi-finals), Danielle Collins (Australian Open semi-finals), Jelena Ostapenko (Dubai 2nd-round) and Cornet (Wimbledon 3rd-round).

Swiatek is now 48-5 this year with 6 titles, including a Grand Slam (Roland Garros), 4 WTA 1000s (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome) and a WTA 500 (Stuttgart).

Garcia, who beat Emma Raducanu in the 2nd-round at Wimbledon, is now 16-3 in her last 19 matches, a stretch that dates back to the week before The Championships.

That the Frenchwoman spoiled the Polish party became obvious as, without the tournament’s star attraction at the weekend, spectators are trying to sell their tickets for Saturday and Sunday when Garcia, the World No 45, faces Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, ranked 48, in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Swiatek will turn her attention to the North American hard swing and is expected to start her US Open preparations at the National Bank Open in Toronto on 8 August.

In the lower half of the draw, lucky loser Kateryna Baindl from Ukraine came from a set down to end 8th seed Petra Martic’s 7-match winning streak in the quarter-finals, using deft touch against the Croatian to reach her first WTA semi-final since Gdynia 2021.

Her opponent in the Last 4 will be Romania’s Ana Bogdan, who was a 6-1 6-1 winner over Brazil’s Laura Pigossi.

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