In Greek mythology, Atlas famously bore the burden of the world on his shoulders. There have been occasions throughout Iga Swiatek’s 75-week reign because the Hologic WTA Tour’s No.1-ranked participant that her burden appeared equally heavy.
However when Swiatek misplaced to Jelena Ostapenko within the fourth spherical of the US Open, Aryna Sabalenka grew to become the recipient of all the fun and issues that include the highest rating. In her previous two matches on the China Open in Beijing, in opposition to Prime 10 gamers Coco Gauff and Caroline Garcia, Swiatek performed with an plain freedom.
That’s not a coincidence.
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“It’s simply simpler,” Swiatek advised reporters. “You may preserve your focus higher and longer. You don’t have any ideas which are form of messing together with your head. Generally it’s even simpler to run or simpler to technically do one thing as a result of it goes extra naturally.
“I really feel like total I’m extra loosened up. I really feel extra free.”
Sunday, on the Diamond Court docket of the Nationwide Tennis Heart, the No.2 Swiatek meets unseeded Liudmila Samsonova within the ultimate of the season’s final WTA 1000 occasion (7:30 p.m., native time). Within the semifinals, Swiatek defeated No.3 Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-3 whereas Samsonova was a 7-6(7), 6-3 winner over No. 5 Elena Rybakina.
Let’s break it down:
The case for Swiatek
Step away from the entire No.1 factor and think about what she’s completed over the previous two years. Swiatek has gained a complete of fifty WTA 1000 matches — one thing solely gamers named Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams have completed for the reason that format was launched in 2009.
China Open: Scores | Schedule | Attracts
OK, only one extra: Swiatek is the youngest participant to achieve her 20th WTA-level ultimate since Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in 2010.
It’s straightforward to neglect she turned 22 on the finish of Might.
Swiatek holds a 2-0 head-to-head edge over Samsonova; the second coming in February, a 6-1, 6-0 demolition in Dubai. Swiatek broke her serve 5 occasions and didn’t face a break herself.
The unhealthy information for Samsonova? Swiatek served the lights out in opposition to Gauff, profitable 32 of her 40 service factors. She didn’t expertise a break level. Serving, she stated, has been some extent of emphasis in current practices.
“For positive at this match I really feel like I’m serving higher,” Swiatek stated. “I had matches throughout this season the place I felt like, `Yeah, I used to be serving nice, and I want I had that form of type by way of my serve each match.’ It was up and down.”
Clearly, Swiatek’s head is in place. She has extra match wins than anyone this yr (62) and has overwhelmed unseeded gamers 40 of 43 occasions. After shedding her final two WTA 1000 finals, in Dubai and Madrid, Swiatek might be eager to take this one.
The case for Samsonova
Protected to say, the 24-year-old has discovered her stride. Beating Rybakina for the fourth time in 4 tries (she struck 33 winners) is a pleasant option to sail into your second WTA 1000 ultimate in lower than two months.
A win over Swiatek would vault her to No.11 on Monday, a profession excessive.
For Samsonova, a selective reminiscence might be vital. She has to neglect that beatdown in Dubai — and keep in mind the primary time she performed Swiatek within the 2022 Stuttgart semifinals.
“I favored so much the way in which that I step on the courtroom in Stuttgart in opposition to her,” Samsonova stated, “as a result of I step, like, `I’m enjoying in opposition to the No.1, so let’s see and let’s attempt to do my greatest. No stress, nothing.’
“Once I’m mentally like that, I can play my greatest tennis.”
In her post-match press convention, she stated her serve and, maybe extra importantly, the return, maintain the keys to the match.
Samsonova has some terrific karma going for her; she’s gained her previous six matches in opposition to Grand Slam champions. She may grow to be the third participant this season to defeat 4 main winners in a single match, following Ons Jabeur and Elina Svitolina.
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