Iga Swiatek has rallied from a break down in each set to beat former world No.1 Simona Halep 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in one hour 49 minutes and reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Maria Sakkari of Greece then outlasted defending champion Paula Badosa 6-2 4-6 6-1 in the second semi-final on Friday night and will play Swiatek in Sunday’s decider. The third-seeded Swiatek is assured of reaching a new career-high No.2 or No.3 in the world depending on the outcome.
World No.6 Sakkari advanced to her first WTA 1000 final and second final of the season, and is looking to end Swiatek’s 10-match winning streak to win the biggest title of her career.
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Coming into Indian Wells, Sakkari had reached seven semis in her last 10 tournaments.
“I worked my entire life to get to these late stages of the tournament,” Sakkari said through tears on court.
“I know it looks silly to everyone – it’s not like I won the tournament, I’m in the final – but it’s a big deal to me.”
Earlier, Swiatek saved two set points in the first-set tiebreaker when she overcame deficits of 3-1 and 5-3.
The Pole took a 2-1 lead in the second set that featured five service breaks before Romanian Halep won the next three games for a 4-2 lead. But Swiatek was dominant from there. She won the last four straight games, with Halep winning just four points in total on her serve while getting broken twice.
“In my previous matches against Simona, I always felt like I had nothing to lose because I was always not the favourite, but this one, I felt like my ranking is higher and obviously I’ve been playing well,” Swiatek said.
“It was stressful for sure but I wanted to fight until the end and be mentally stronger because Simona is a really strong player, mentally. She’s not giving up so I wanted to do that better. I’m pretty proud that I did that.”