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Iga Swiatek of Poland returns to Sorana Cirstea of Romania at Indian Wells on Thursday. Image Credit: AP

Indian Wells: Defending champion Iga Swiatek’s title defence at the Indian Wells Masters remains on track after the World No 1 posted her 16th straight-set win of the season to defeat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3 and returned to the semifinals of the Masters 1000 at Indian Wells.

The victory on Thursday extended Swiatek’s head-to-head record over the Romanian to 2-0. Into her third consecutive semifinal, the Pole has yet to lose a set during this fortnight. She has now won 10 consecutive matches at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

High-intensity game

“I’m happy that I played so intensely that I could start both sets well. I feel like handling things pretty well, and just playing my game,” Swiatek said of her victory over Cirstea.

The 21-year-old Swiatek improved to 16-3 on the season and 12-1 lifetime at Indian Wells, as she set up a clash with Elena Rybakina, who sent her packing from 2023’s first Grand Slam.

The duel will be a rematch of their Round of 16 clash at the Australian Open in January, which Rybakina won 6-4, 6-4.

Tough win

Rybakina advanced to her first WTA 1000 semifinal after a tough three-set win over Czech player Karolina Muchova. The Kazakh is one of three players, who has tallied a win against Swiatek this season; she ended Swiatek’s quest for a fourth major title at the Australian Open.

Swiatek and Rybakina have split their two meetings, both of which were played on hard courts.

The world No 1 Pole is bidding to become the first No 1 seed to advance to the Indian Wells final since Serena Williams in 2016 and the first top seed to win the title since Victoria Azarenka in 2012.

Should she go on to successfully defend the title, the 21-year-old will join Martina Navratilova as the only two women to win back-to-back championships at Indian Wells.