Iga Swiatek keeps Indian Wells title defence on track with victory over Sorana Cirstea to reach semi-finals

Iga Swiatek breezed her way into the Indian Wells semi-finals with a 6-2 6-3 win over Sorana Cirstea on Thursday.

After her shock failure at the Australian Open, Swiatek is looking to impose herself on the 2023 campaign and looked good in beating Cirstea to keep her title defence on track.

The No. 1 seed took a commanding 6-2 lead to land the first set after a tight opening five games as the pair exchanged holds, but once Swiatek took a 3-2 lead, there was no turning back.

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The 21-year-old stormed through the next eight games to build a 6-2, 4-0 lead after an hour of play, and despite Cirstea momentarily stalling Swiatek’s momentum with a break to move to 4-1, the Pole held onto her break advantage to wrap up the match 22 minutes later.

“Honestly, I didn’t experience everything in tennis yet but for sure, this feeling is great,” she said in her on-court interview. “From the beginning of the tournament, I felt this positive energy, and the fans are really supportive.

“It’s not often when you are the defending champion, but I feel like I’m handling it pretty well and I’m just playing my game.”

Swiatek is on fine form, having not lost a set during the tournament so far. She was dominant throughout, finishing the day with 19 winners and just 13 unforced errors, breaking Cirstea on five of her break chances.

She will need to keep her form up when she faces reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who reached her first WTA Tour 1000 event semi-final with a 7-6(4) 2-6 6-4 victory over Karolina Muchova.

“It was very tough today,” Rybakina said in her on-court interview after the match. “I didn’t start that well.

“I was a bit slower than usual. Karolina, she played really well. And then in important moments, I played well.”

Rybakina got the better of world No. 1 Swiatek the last time the pair met. The Kazakhstani won 6-4 6-4 in the Australia Open last 16, before she went on to reach the final.

With No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka also reaching the semi-finals on Wednesday – where she will face Maria Sakkari – it means that it is the first time since 2014 that the top two seeds have reached the last four at Indian Wells.

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