Polish teen Iga Swiatek is a win away from her first WTA title since capturing the Roland Garros crown, and is a heavy favorite to do so with -275 odds against higher-ranked opposition Belinda Bencic at +215.
Playing just her third tournament since Paris, Swiatek has endured no major letdown in her first season as a Grand Slam champion. She shook off an early loss to the always dangerous Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Gippsland Trophy to roll into the second week of the Australian Open, where she fell to Simona Halep in three tight sets.
The No. 5 seed has looked similarly imperious in Adelaide, reaching her third career WTA final without dropping a set, and didn’t lose serve throughout her semifinal blitz of Jil Teichmann.
At this stage, no adjustments necessary.
“If it's going to be different, then I've kind of done something wrong,” she said on Friday. “The key is to keep your routines. The most important thing is to have the same attitude because I know I've been doing a great job. Keeping that is going to ensure me that it's just another match. I'm not going to be stressed. I'm not going to have higher expectations.
“I don't see why it would be different. I'm just going to be focusing on work.”
Just four years older than Swiatek, Bencic brings much more big stage experience in what will be her 11th WTA final, and is at last starting to rebuild the momentum she carried into the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season.
The Swiss star played her most convincing match of the week when she outlasted an in-form Coco Gauff in the semifinals, resetting after a pair of dramatic tie-breaks to serve out a straightforward decider.
The No. 2 seed opted for the extra week in Australia with extra matches on the agenda. Mission accomplished: no matter what happens in the final, she'll leave with at least three in a row for the first time since her title run in Moscow 16 months ago.
“What I call confident is when you go to the court and you think about, like, where you're going to serve, where she's going to serve. You start thinking little bit more, not about your game because you play the ball in the court automatically. Then you're able to think about tactics, the bigger things.
“When someone is on a roll, flow, that's what you call confident. Definitely I'm really happy I'm doing that better in my game, that it's just really going natural by instincts again.”
She will need all those instincts against Swiatek, whose blend of athleticism and whippy topspin is unlike most others on tour, and one Bencic has never faced on a match court.
“She's a young player that still has the careless swinging tennis. She has a different, little bit more unique game. It's working really well because it's always better to play a little bit different than play like everyone else.
“I practiced with her here a couple of times so I know what to expect. Hopefully I can just apply it on her and have a good day.”
Can Bencic embrace the unfamiliar role of elder stateswoman, or will Swiatek expand her empire with a first hard-court title?
The Pick: Iga Swiatek