Pretty comfortable” Iga Swiatek wins Stuttgart title defense opener; Potapova beats Gauff again

Competing for the first time since the BNP Paribas Open semifinals, top-ranked Iga Swiatek kicked off her Stuttgart title defense—and return to European red clay—with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Zheng Qinwen on Thursday.

“It was difficult, especially because I didn’t play since Indian Wells. I felt like I needed be 100 percent focused from the beginning till the end to think about technique and tactics,” she said in her on-court interview.

“I’m pretty happy that I’m not rusty.”

Returning from a rib injury that kept her out of Miami and Poland’s Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier, Swiatek broke in her opening return game—a launching pad that was the beginning of her most straightforward win in three meetings with Zheng. The 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year struggled to find her range early, with 15 unforced errors accounting for 26 of the points Swiatek won in a lopsided opening set.

2023 Robert Prange

Zheng donated three more shaky errors (including a double fault) to drop serve at the beginning of set two. Swiatek continued to coast along without much resistance coming back, until she served at 4-3.

After Zheng reached deuce for just the second time, she ripped a backhand crosscourt into the ad corner that was initially called out. Chair umpire Miriam Bley corrected the call and awarded the Shiyan native the point. Swiatek pleaded that she backed off upon hearing the call, but Bley told her the ball skidded off the line and didn’t feel Swiatek had a play. On the next point, Zheng dictated a lengthy rally, finishing with a short-court overhead winner to level the set.

Swiatek responded in gritty fashion, prevailing in a 14-point game that saw Zheng miss two chances to reach 5-4. With the match on her racquet, Swiatek ensured no windows of opportunity were left open for her opponent to take again by serving it out at 15.

“She’s really talented and everybody can see that. She plays a little bit differently that most other players. I needed to adjust,” said Swiatek after putting in 86 minutes of work at the indoor WTA 500 event.. “I’m just happy that I was focused on myself, what I want to do and implement from all these practices that I had here. I feel pretty comfortable.”

In Friday’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix quarterfinals, Swiatek will meet Karolina Pliskova. The Czech battled past Donna Vekic, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), to follow up her opening-round win over No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari. The last time she squared off against Swiatek was a day to forget for Pliskova, as the Pole posted a double bagel to win their 2021 Rome final.

Anastasia Potapova got the better of Coco Gauff for the second time in a month, dispatching the fifth seed, 6-2, 6-3. The 22-year-old saved all six break points she faced in adding to her third-round win over the American at the Miami Open. Potapova’s next challenge will be No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman toppled home favorite Tatjana Maria, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Paula Badosa also moved forward, lining up a quarterfinal battle with tour bestie Aryna Sabalenka. The Spaniard has dropped just five games in her two victories, today taking out countrywoman Cristina Bucsa, 6-1, 6-2.


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