In her zone: World number one Iga Swiatek of Poland on the way to a second-round victory over American Claire Liu at Indian Wells
Indian Wells (United States) (AFP) - It takes more than unexpectedly breezy weather to blow world number one Iga Swiatek off course.
The 21-year-old from Warsaw barely put a foot wrong as she got her bid for a rare Indian Wells title repeat off to a sizzling start on Saturday with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over 56th-ranked American Claire Liu.
“For sure I’m happy with the performance,” Swiatek said. “It was a really solid match and I’m happy with how I adjusted to the wind, because when we were practicing, it wasn’t that windy.
“Tactically and tennis-wise, everything was on point.”
Swiatek surrendered just seven points in an opening set that lasted 28 minutes.
“When you have a score like that sometimes the energy level can go down a little bit,” she admitted.
“It did a little bit in the second set at the end. So, yeah, I was aware what I have to do. I just came back with a more intense game.
“I had so many matches that were going my way in last couple of weeks that I know what to do.”
Indeed even with Swiatek’s slight dip, the second set was far from a close run thing.
But Liu saved a match point as she finally held serve in the penultimate game, the crowd roaring when she poked a forehand shot past Swiatek on game point.
It drew a relieved smile from the American, but Swiatek polished off the win in the next game after 65 minutes.
The victory took her a step closer to becoming just the second woman, after Martina Navratilova in 1990 and ‘91, to win back-to-back Indian Wells titles.
Her triumph in the California desert last year was part of a run that saw Swiatek win in Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.
Feeling the love: Iga Swiatek acknowledges the crowd after defeating American Claire Liu at Indian Wells
This year, after a shock exit in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, she defended her title at Doha and reached the final at Dubai.
This week, Swiatek said, she’s enjoying her return to California and a warm reception from fans.
“I feel that, especially when I’m warming up, and when I’m like going near to the fan area, it’s pretty crazy, and I enjoy that for sure.
“On the other hand I want to sometimes stay in my zone. In the match it’s easier to do that because everyone kind of expects you to do that.
“Off the court I’m trying to balance that a little bit more to give fans what they want. I appreciate their support.”