Italian Open: Swiatek storms past Sabalenka to reach final
Rome, May 14 (IANS) World No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek reached the finals of the Italian Open after defeating World No 8 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals, here on Saturday.
Swiatek has now won 39 of her last 40 sets and the victory extended her incredible winning streak to 27 matches. She is now tied with Serena Williams for the fourth-longest winning streak of the century. Williams reeled off 27 victories from the 2014 WTA Finals through the 2015 Madrid Open.
Having won Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami, Swiatek is the first player since Simona Halep in 2017 to make four WTA 1000 finals in a single season. Swiatek has lost just 17 games en route to the Rome final. In the last 25 years at the Foro Italico, only Serena Williams (10), Kim Clijsters (13), and Martina Hingis (15) have lost fewer.
Seeking her eighth career title, the 20-year-old will face either Ons Jabeur or Daria Kasatkina in Sunday's final.
Under the beaming sun on Court Centrale, Swiatek put in her best performance of the week to suffocate Sabalenka from the baseline. Swiatek set the tone for the win by breaking Sabalenka in her first two service games to build a 3-1 lead.
Swiatek kept her targets big and consistently tested Sabalenka's rally tolerance. In the end, Sabalenka misfired on 16 unforced errors in the opening set, while striking just three winners. The Polish star, who kept a clean sheet with five winners to six unforced errors, pocketed the opening set in just 31 minutes.
The world No. 1 has proven herself to be an incredible front-runner after winning the opening set and the script proved true once again. Swiatek jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Sabalenka snapped her run of seven games to hold. Down 1-4, Sabalenka took a medical timeout during the changeover.
Swiatek held on after resumption and closed out the win by breaking Sabalenka for the sixth time on the day. Swiatek finished the match with 15 winners and 15 unforced errors. Sabalenka hit eight winners to 31 unforced errors.
The Polish star is now 30-0 at WTA 1000s when she wins the first set. She is 6-1 in 2022 against Top-10 opponents, having won six straight. Her sole loss came to former No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals at Adelaide.