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“Helpless” Swiatek in tears as USA take 2-0 lead over Poland in United Cup

World No 1 Iga Swiatek was humbled by Jessica Pegula, leaving Poland’s chances of reaching the final hanging by a thread

Iga Swiatek United Cup SF 2023 © Mark Baker/AP/SIPA

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Iga Swiatek is human, given her achievements over the past year.

But on Friday at the United Cup in Brisbane, the world No 1, who won two Grand Slams and six other events in 2022, suffered one of her heaviest defeats on Tour as Poland fell 2-0 down to the United States in the semi-finals.

With a towel over her head, tears in her eyes on her chair and palpable distress on her face, Swiatek was swept aside 6-2, 6-2 by world No 3 Jessica Pegula. It was the fewest games she’s won in a match on the the WTA Tour since Dubai 2021, when she was routed 6-0, 6-4 rout by Garbiñe Muguruza. 

Swiatek: “I felt kind of helpless today”

Prior to the match, the world No 1 led Pegula 4-1 in their previous five encounters and she had not lost to the American since 2019. Asked in the press conference why she cried, the Pole was typically honest, explaining that she was very disappointed to have let her teammates down on Friday.  

“Because I just knew that I felt kind of helpless today, because physically and mentally I wasn’t able to kind of show up even, and problem-solve,” she said. “So it’s always hard when you lose, especially when you’re kind of playing for the team and your country.

“So I was just sad. But, you know, it’s not the first time I cried after a lost match. Nothing special.”

USA take commanding 2-0 lead

Swiatek had a nightmare on her serve, finishing the match with only 38 percent of points won behind her first ball and 33 percent behind her second, losing serve five times in all. On the other side of the court, Pegula was rock solid as she claimed the biggest win of her career (in terms of her opponent’s ranking), to give the USA a 1-0 lead.

“I would say she for sure learned her lesson and she played really well,” Swiatek said. “Even in defence she was just putting one more ball in and kind of giving me chances to make a mistake.

“I was off the rhythm, as well. I couldn’t kind of use Jessie’s power to put even more in the ball. I more like kind of pushed it back in. When I wanted to play more aggressively, I just missed a lot. But she also forced that.

“I feel like she was more solid and she didn’t make (an) unforced error for (the) first, I don’t know, 10 minutes of the match. I’m not sure, but it looked like it.”

In the second match of the day, Frances Tiafoe played his role perfectly, dominating Kacper Zuk, ranked 245th in the world, (6-3, 6-3).

The United States are now just one win away from the final. On Saturday, Taylor Fritz and Madison Keys will have the opportunity to finish the job. 

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