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Iga Swiatek takes the next step, hoping for more

Women’s tennis continues to deliver the goods at the 2022 Australian Open, in its own signature way. As I keep pointing out (because it keeps happening), the names of the players are always different, but compelling dramas keep emerging in women’s tennis at the majors.

Raducanu-Fernandez in New York becomes Tauson-Collins and Halep-Cornet in Melbourne. Barty-Kerber at Wimbledon becomes Fernandez-Svitolina in New York. Badosa-Bogdan at Roland Garros becomes Jabeur-Muguruza at Wimbledon. And so it goes. The names are always different from one major to the next, but there are always a few memorable battles, always a high level of quality at contemporary women’s majors.

As great as women’s tennis is and has recently been — even without Serena Williams on the scene — there is always that question, lingering in the air: Will we get a blockbuster rivalry to anchor the next several years of women’s tennis?

Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka didn’t meet at this tournament. They simply don’t seem fated to meet.

Could Barty versus Iga Swiatek in a showcase women’s final be in the cards? We’re getting closer.

Swiatek joined Barty in the quarterfinals with a steely three-set win over Sorana Cirstea in the fourth round. Swiatek advanced in three sets after losing in set one, on a day when Aryna Sabalenka — who had continuously lost first sets at this tournament but had found ways to escape — could not get past Kaia Kanepi in the Round of 16.

Swiatek had tough draws at majors last season — Twitter friend and fellow tennis writer Trenton Jocz has been quick to point this out — but now she has Kanepi and the Alize Cornet-Danielle Collins winner in front of her on the path to the final.

She could not ask for a much better draw, all things considered.

No, this doesn’t mean her draw is EASY, only that it’s pretty good compared to the possible alternatives. It’s a great chance for Swiatek, already in the quarterfinals of her first non-clay (non-Roland Garros) major, to move to the final and potentially play Barty for all the marbles.

Swiatek didn’t have a bad 2021, but she just as clearly got knocked around by the tour, which pushed back after Swiatek cruised to the 2020 Roland Garros title. We all wanted to see how Swiatek would respond at the start of 2022.

We’re getting all the right answers. Let’s see if Swiatek can answer a few more questions.

If so, the possibility of a showcase rivalry emerging on the WTA Tour in 2022 could turn into a reality.

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