Swiatek storms past Sabalenka to return to Rome final

ROME, Italy — World No.1 Iga Swiatek advanced to her fifth consecutive Hologic WTA Tour final on Saturday, defeating No.8 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Seeking her eighth career title, the 20-year-old Polish star will face either Ons Jabeur or Daria Kasatkina in Sunday’s final.

The victory extended Swiatek’s incredible winning streak to 27 matches. The last time a player won as many was in 2015 when Serena Williams reeled off 27 wins from the 2014 WTA Finals through 2015 Madrid. 

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 lost her first meeting against Sabalenka last fall at the WTA Finals but has bounced back to win their next three clashes. The Pole posted straight-set victories over Sabalenka en route to two of her four titles this season, first in the semifinals of Doha and then in the final of Stuttgart. 

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. Swiatek, who kept a clean sheet with five winners to six unforced errors, pocketed the opening set in just 31 minutes.

Swiatek 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 received a medical timeout during the changeover. Swiatek held on the 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 Adelaide semifinals. 

More to follow…

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