Iga Swiatek, the defending champion, advanced to the finals of the Italian Open after defeating World No. 8 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Iga Swiatek has now won 39 of her last 40 sets, and her incredible winning streak now stands at 27 matches. She is now tied with Serena Williams for the century’s fourth-longest winning streak. From the 2014 WTA Finals to the 2015 Madrid Open, Williams won 27 matches.
Swiatek is the first player since Simona Halep in 2017 to reach four WTA 1000 finals in a single season, having won Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami. Swiatek has only lost 17 games on his way to the Rome final. Only Serena Williams (10), Kim Clijsters (13), and Martina Hingis (15) have lost fewer matches at the Foro Italico in the last 25 years.
In the final on Sunday, the 20-year-old will compete for her eighth career title against either Ons Jabeur or Daria Kasatkina.
Swiatek put in her best performance of the week on Court Centrale, suffocating Sabalenka from the baseline. Swiatek set the tone for the victory by breaking Sabalenka in both of her service games to take a 3-1 lead.
Swiatek kept her targets large and consistently put Sabalenka’s rally tolerance to the test. In the end, Sabalenka made 16 unforced errors in the first set, striking only three winners. The Polish star won the first set in 31 minutes, keeping a clean sheet with five winners to six unforced errors.
After winning the first set, the world No. 1 proved herself to be an incredible front-runner, and the script proved true once more. Swiatek raced out to a 4-0 lead before Sabalenka snapped her seven-game winning streak. Sabalenka took a medical timeout during the changeover, trailing 1-4.
Swiatek held on after the restart and sealed the victory by breaking Sabalenka for the sixth time on the day. Swiatek won 15 points and made 15 unforced errors in the match. Sabalenka had eight winners to 31 errors.
When she wins the first set, the Polish star improves to 30-0 in WTA 1000s. She is 6-1 against Top-10 opponents in 2022, having won six straight. Her lone defeat came in the semi-finals to former No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Adelaide.
(Inputs from IANS)