Swiatek battles into Australian Open fourth round with gutsy win

The Polish seventh seed, who won the 2020 French Open as a 19-year-old, needed 94 minutes to dismantle the 25th-ranked Russian 6-2, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena.

A pumped-up Iga Swiatek burnished her Australian Open credentials with a hard-fought straight-sets win.   -  AP

A pumped-up Iga Swiatek burnished her Australian Open credentials with a hard-fought straight-sets win over in-form Daria Kasatkina on Saturday to battle into the fourth round.

The Polish seventh seed, who won the 2020 French Open as a 19-year-old, needed 94 minutes to dismantle the 25th-ranked Russian 6-2, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena.

But it was an impressive performance of power and precision from Swiatek against a player who opened her season with back-to-back semifinals in Melbourne and Sydney.

Swiatek, who won titles in Adelaide and Rome last year, will next play either 10th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea for the berth in the quarterfinals.

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"The match was really intense," said the Pole, who admitted she was "pumped-up" by the win.

"It was hard to run for every ball and finish Daria. She plays a really cool top spin ... I tried to play my balls low so she couldn't play her topspin, but it was hard.

"At the end, all that mattered was who was going to put that last ball over the net because the rallies were pretty long," she added.

Swiatek and Kasatkina played once last year, in the round of 16 at Eastbourne, and it was the Russian who prevailed in three sets.

But Swiatek always looked on top at Melbourne Park.

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She pounced first in game four, applying pressure to work three break points and converted when the Russian slapped a forehand long.

Both players were returning well and long rallies ensued, but Swiatek repelled Kasatkina's baseline threat to hold on and broke again as the Russian served to stay in the set.

Seemingly in control, Swiatek fired an unplayable forehand return to break for 2-0 in the second set, but Kasatkina refused to go quietly and broke straight back.

Every game became a dogfight until the Pole ground her the Russian for another break in game six and completed the win.

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