Iga Swiatek and the Drumbeat of Victory

Photo by Michael Kheir

Bill Simons

Indian Wells

THINK AGAIN: We thought that when a little-known Italian, the No. 123 Luca Nardi, beat No. 1 Novak Djokovic, it would undoubtedly be the shock of the tourney. Then thousands of bees invaded Indian Wells.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH? Carlos Alcaraz said, “You can’t beat the bees.” 

GEAR OF CHOICE: Hefty blankets, down jackets, comforting scarves and warm caps were the gear of choice in Tennis Paradise today. It was chilly and, at times, rainy.

BLAME THE BEEKEEPER: Yesterday beekeeper Lance Davis was the big hero. But today when Indian Wells doubles champion Wesley Koolhof reflected on the weather, he suggested, “The beekeeper may have vacuumed all the heat out of this place.”

IGA SWIATEK AND THE DRUMBEAT OF VICTORY: Drums beat in the distance. There was an incessant beat coming from the entertainment stage, while, on-court, the relentless, focused Iga Swiatek imposed another beatdown. The victim this time was Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk. 

Fortunately, in the first BNP Paribas semi of the day, there was no swarm of bees. Unfortunately, there was also little drama. After losing the first game of the match, the world No. 1 sprinted from corner to corner and imposed her will on the overmatched 21-year-old Kostyuk, who was playing in her first WTA 1000 semis.

Iga didn’t cook up any bagels, and baked just one breadstick. She won 6-2, 6-1.

On a cool desert afternoon, tennis fans again saw the Pole’s almost chilly efficiency, as she committed just six unforced errors. Sunday she’ll try to win her second title. She’s 19-2 this year, has the most wins on tour, and is 18-4 in finals. 

Our suggestion: don’t bet against Iga.

THUS SPOKE ROGER: Roger Federer told GQ magazine, “I feel like I squeezed the lemon out. I tried everything I had. And I’m so at peace.”  

THE RULES OF THE GAME: The soundtrack at Indian Wells rocks. At certain times the tournament allows fans to upgrade to better seats with no charge. Starting night matches early, at 6 PM, is superb. But the tourney hasn’t adapted the fan-friendly policy that the Aussie Open began – letting fans go to their seats after each game, not just during changeovers.

THREE CUPS OF COCO: Coco Gauff is the most charismatic player in the women’s game. The recently retired Coco Vandeweghe is emerging as a fine broadcaster, and Bianca Andreescu’s dog Coco plays a large part in her well received book, “Bibi’s Got Game: A Story about Tennis, Meditation and a Dog Named Coco.”

COCO’S FIGHT: When Inside Tennis asked Coco Gauff’s coach, Brad Gilbert, what her greatest strength was, the broadcaster and former No. 4 replied, “She’s an amazing competitor…Even when she’s not at her best, she finds a way to compete.” 

In addition to Coco’s competitiveness, Gilbert said her other great asset is her speed. He explained: “Movement kills. You’ve seen what it does for Rafa, for Djoker, for Fed, for Serena. Besides a great serve, movement is probably the best attribute to have.”

Coco then reflected on her fighting spirit, saying, “My competitiveness is definitely my strength. It’s not something that’s taught or really learned. It’s just one of those things you have to find deep down inside of you.”

“I’ve always been like that my whole life. Hopefully I don’t lose that spirit. The greatest competitor I’ve seen is definitely Serena. Of [all] the people I’ve played, I would say [the most competitive is] Aryna Sabalenka. She’s an incredible competitor. She’s always going to compete and find a way, even if she’s not playing her best.”

Friday night, the newly minted 20-year old wasn’t playing her best. She did save three match points against the resurgent Maria Sakkari and fought from behind in a damp Indian Wells semi that was interrupted by two rain delays.

But Gauff faltered in the final set and fell to the 28-year-old 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2. Sakkari will face Swiatek in a replay of the 2022 final that the Pole won going away 6-4, 6-1.

OLYMPICS NOTES: The upcoming Olympics have been on lots of players’ minds. Last night, Russian Daniil Medvedev said he’s dying to play. Earlier, Gauff assured us she’s all in for the Olympics in August at Roland Garros, where she reached the final two years ago. She plans to play all three events – singles, doubles and mixed. America’s top player, Taylor Fritz also hopes to compete there, but he concedes it’s just to get used to the Olympics experience, before he competes at the 2028 games back home in LA. 

Novak Djokovic is not ruling out the possibility of playing in the 2028 LA Olympics, where he’s hoping to get a medal. When the timeless Nole was asked about playing the 2028 games, he said, “Everything is on the cards. I just don’t know how many cards I have left. The thought of it excites me.” 

Many tennis players have carried their nation’s flags in the opening ceremony, and Maria Sharapova played a key role in the opening of the Sochi, Russia winter games in 2014. 

But, in terms of tennis’ ceremonial presence at the Olympics, we doubt anything will ever match Naomi Osaka lighting the torch at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Then again, wouldn’t it be grand if Gael Monfils lit the torch in Paris. But the Frenchman noted that he hadn’t even won the French Open, and said there were far greater legends in French sports.

PLAN AHEAD: Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park near LAX will be the site of the 2028 Olympics tennis competition.

NOT PLANNING AHEAD: The Olympics is already set for Brisbane in 2032. The 2027 Super Bowl is scheduled for LA. Since 1970, the ATP Finals has had a stable 54-year journey from one predetermined city after another. The Laver Cup is set for Berlin this year and San Francisco in 2025. 

Sadly, again this year, the WTA calendar has no location set for the 2024 Finals. Jon Wertheim has reported that there are possible plans for a multiyear deal to bring the finals to Charlotte in 2027. Some wonder if Ben Navarro, who owns the Credit One Bank and the Credit One Charleston Open, and is the father of world No. 23 Emma Navarro, is involved.

SPEAKING OF AGES: In both the ATP and the WTA, two of the three top players are either 22- or 20-year-olds. When all’s said and done, who will emerge having the best career? The WTA’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who already has four Slams, or 20-year-old Coco Gauff, who’s won one Slam. 

Similarly, will two-time Slam winner and No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, 20, or Aussie Open champ Jannik Sinner, 22, eventually finish their career with more Slams? Daniil Medvedev thinks that in ten years, Sinner and Alacarz will have won the same number of Slams.

PERIODIC DISCUSSION: In a lengthy interview with BNP Paribas Open Radio,  Bianca Andreescu not only talked about life on tour and meditation. She also spoke openly about hormonal adjustments and how periods impact WTA players.

LIFE IN A LAND OF WAR: Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk lost her semi today, but she hasn’t lost hope for her homeland – not yet. She told Inside Tennis, “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow…All the people have this feeling, because our lives are not in our hands.”

“It’s very tiring and difficult to live in these conditions, for years already. It’s exhausting. The world doesn’t understand how quickly things can turn around. 

“I’m doing everything I can to have influence, but you still feel like it’s not enough – I should do more. But it’s very difficult to understand what we are living through and how many things were breached…”

“It’s just painful. Obviously there are very good lessons for the whole country to rely on ourselves and to be very nice to everyone…A lot of things are happening for a reason. So I just hope we can get more help around the world and we can learn as much as possible so it doesn’t ever happen again.”

DOUBLES WINNERS: Nikola Mektic and Wesley Koolhof, who were playing their first Masters together, won the title over  Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballas in a match without any service breaks. The winners won $450,000. 

DOUBLES IS FOR OLD FOLKS? The average age of the four men’s singles semi-finalists is 24, but the average age of the four men’s doubles finalists is 36. The average age of the four women’s singles semi-finalists is 23 while the average age of the four women’s doubles finalists is 31.

Also reporting Vinay Venkatesh



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