Iga Swiatek infuriated Zheng Qinwen minutes before their quarterfinal singles match at the United Cup after the World No. 1 hit her Chinese opponent with a serve during warmups. The ball struck Zheng on her right wrist moments after she turned back around from talking to one of the ball kids off the court.
Swiatek, 22, reluctantly raised her right hand after acknowledging the impact before bending down to collect another ball. After realising that Zheng was still staring at her, the Polish player then raised two fingers off the ball in apology.
That led to her opponent holding her arms out by her side before indicating that the serve had struck her right wrist, the hand she plays with. Swiatek swiftly responded with another gesture as she exchanged words with Zheng before they both looked away and continued with their warmups on the baseline.
Once the match got underway, Swiatek wasted little time, winning in straight sets (6-2, 6-3) after just over an hour and a half of play. That win came after Hubert Hurkacz had beaten Zhang Zhizhen similarly convincingly (6-3, 6-2) and sent Poland into the semi-finals for the second straight year.
Swiatek has now beaten the 2023 WTA Most Improved Player in all five head-to-head meetings, but this was only the second time she has done so in straight sets. Before the matchup, both players were 2-0 in their group-stage singles matches.
“Qinwen put some pressure on me,” Swiatek said afterwards, “especially at the beginning of the match, but I was able to go even a level higher. I’m happy with how I played.” Zheng went ahead by an early break – her first win over a reigning World No. 1 – and was 2-0 up on Swiatek before losing the next six games for the first set.
Later, at Poland’s press conference, she also spoke about how she appreciates how the tournament’s schedule has changed from last year’s inaugural edition. “I’m really happy that United Cup, kind of, listened to our feedback and are supporting us in terms of giving us time to get used to the new conditions,” she said before the team travel from Perth to Sydney for the semi-finals.
“Last year I remember the court in Sydney was a little bit different. Also, it’s hard to, like, obviously was two hours of travel for us, but you have to pack, you have to unpack, spending the night at a different hotel. It feels different, and you’re not in the routine and in the rhythm.
“I’m really happy that United Cup and everybody that organised this tournament listened to us, because there were many feedbacks that were the same as ours. I felt, for sure, last year, like, I couldn’t find my game suddenly.
“Hopefully, this year is going to be a little bit better. We’ll do our best to use that one day of practice or, maybe two, I don’t know yet, to get used to the court.”