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Gigi’s column: Swiatek’s success, a swarm of bees and Halep’s return

In her latest Sky Sports column, Gigi Salmon reflects on Iga Swiatek’s success, the swarm of bees that took over Indian Wells and Simona Halep’s return ahead of Miami Open…

I never thought I would be talking about a bee invasion or rain suspending play on multiple occasions when it came to talking about Tennis Paradise (otherwise known as Indian Wells; the first joint 1000 event of the year), but times are changing!

Reigning supreme was a 22-year-old, who now holds eight WTA 1000 titles and four Grand Slam titles together with the No 1 ranking; and a 20-year-old who successfully defended his title which was his first since Wimbledon last summer.

Swiatek continues to star

Let’s start with Iga Swiatek, who only lost 21 games and no more than four in a set en route to her second Indian Wells title.

With all the numbers that are starting to accumulate around the world No 1, perhaps the most frightening to her opponents at this level is that she is now 70-0 when she has won the first set in a WTA 1000 match.

When asked this week, Swiatek highlighted her strengths as intensity, discipline and topspin – and all of those were in play as she took apart Maria Sakkari for the loss of just four games.

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Highlights of Iga Swiatek against Maria Sakkari in the WTA final at Indian Wells

After the final was won, she spoke to us live on Sky Sports Tennis and then began a round of media commitments culminating in a rooftop photo opportunity with Hollywood actor and model Zendaya, who had been watching with her Spiderman boyfriend Tom Holland. Other celebrities spotted in the desert included Rod Laver, Bill Gates, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Will Ferrell and Charlize Theron.

While we had a 22-year-old winning the women’s title, a 20-year-old defended the men’s title with Carlos Alcaraz finding confidence and form as he made his way through the draw.

This was his first title since Wimbledon and a much-needed boost for the Spaniard who had been dealing with ankle trouble in the lead-up to the tournament.

Alcaraz is only the second man to have won multiple masters titles (five) before the age of 21, the only other being Rafa Nadal with nine.

Would you bee-lieve it?

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Lance Davis, known as the ‘Killer Bee Catcher,’ saved Indian Wells by hoovering up all the bees that invaded the main stadium court

The hero of Indian Wells was beekeeper Lance Davis who was called into action when a swarm of bees took a liking to the Spidercam on Stadium 1 at the start of the Carlos Alcaraz vs Sascha Zverev quarter-final.

The players made a sharp exit and then to the rescue came Lance who barehandedly gathered up what he called a ‘small’ swarm of bees (around 3,500), sucking them into a ‘live catch cage’.

In terms of Sky team challenges, we had to film a link on a sand dune, but I had to speak quickly as I started sinking into the sand.

Then on finals day, we opened the show with Tim, Laura and I on the back of a golf buggy. We got in early to get it done, made sure that Tim wasn’t driving, had a near miss with a pedestrian but that aside it all went pretty smoothly!

Gigi Salmon and Laura Robson during Indian Wells
Image: Gigi Salmon and Laura Robson during Indian Wells

Welcome to Miami

With Indian Wells coming to an end, talk started shifting to Miami and the second part of the sunshine swing, which starts this week and will be live on Sky Sports Tennis.

There won’t be the opportunity for a seventh Miami title for world No 1 Novak Djokovic who has withdrawn from the tournament saying “at this stage of my professional career, I’m balancing my private and professional schedule”.

We also now know who Simona Halep will be returning from her suspension against, drawn against Paula Badosa who is still struggling with back problems which forced her to pull out of Indian Wells.

Sky Sports Tennis team during Indian Wells
Image: Sky Sports Tennis team during Indian Wells

Speaking of Halep’s return, her former coach and now coach to Jannik Sinner, Darren Cahill told Sky Sports Tennis: “It’s the highlight of my year and I’ve had a pretty good year so far with everything Jannik has done, 18 months of torture for her, I’ve always believed in her.”

The Miami draws have been made, everything is set and the Indian Wells finalists like us will be leaving the desert on Monday – but I’m thinking that their journey to the airport might be a touch smoother.

Maybe this was my Sky Sports Tennis Challenge for Indian Wells? Writing my column in the back of the car while Tim is in charge of directions and music (currently George Michael and Careless Whisper) while our Producer Adam swerves his way across five lanes of the freeway!

All being well Tim and I will be joining Annabel for Miami later this week!

How to watch play on Sky Sports Tennis

The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day
Image: The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day

Sky Sports has confirmed a new home for tennis in the UK and Ireland, with Sky Sports Tennis on Sky and NOW, making tennis content available all day, every day for fans.

Sky Sports will broadcast more live tennis than anywhere else, bringing over 4,000 matches from more than 80 tournaments a year on the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as full coverage of the US Open, all exclusively live.

Non-Sky subscribers can stream live matches with a NOW Sports Day and Month Membership, via Sky Sports Tennis, Sky Sports Arena, and Sky Sports Mix channels.

For further access, fans will also be able to follow their favourite players and gain deeper insights from both Tours via Sky Sports News, the Sky Sports app, on SkySports.com and via Sky Sports social channels.

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Find out all the ways to watch tennis on Sky Sports, including the US Open, ATP and WTA tours

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