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With her 27th straight win, Swiatek routs Sabalenka and stands a match from her fifth consecutive title
“This time, I wanted to put pressure on my opponent from beginning to end,” said the world No. 1. That’s exactly what she did on Saturday to reach the Rome final for the second year in a row.
Published May 14, 2022
WATCH: Iga Swiatek defeats Aryna Sabalenka in the 2022 Rome semifinals
There was a point in the middle of Iga Swiatek’s emphatic 6-2, 6-1 win over Aryna Sabalenka in Rome on Saturday that sums up how well things are going for the WTA’s No. 1 player right now.
Swiatek had won the first set 6-2. She had taken her ground strokes as early as possible, hit them as hard as possible, and aimed them as ambitiously as possible. There wasn’t a corner she didn’t think she could nail, and most of the time she was right.
Sabalenka, meanwhile, had done the opposite. She had also hit big and gone for the lines, but most of her shots had sailed over them or failed to clear the net. By the fourth game, she had already committed 10 unforced errors. In Sabalenka’s defense, she didn’t have much time to think about what she was doing. By the time she was finished with her service motion, Swiatek’s return was already screaming across the net, and landing at her feet.
Those patterns continued through the first two games of the second set. But in the third there was, finally, a sign of hope for Sabalenka. After going up 0-40, triple break point, Swiatek made a rare error on her return. Sabalenka seized the moment. She came forward on the next two points and finished them with confident smashes. Was a turnaround about to happen?
At game point, Sabalenka hit a serve that popped up, well above Swiatek’s head. But Iga being Iga, and having forgotten how to lose, she reached up, made solid contact, and hit a good return. Her shot took Sabalenka by surprise, and may have taken a bad bounce to boot, because the Belarusian missed her next forehand badly. Swiatek went on to break for 3-0, and snuff out any chance of a Sabalenka comeback.
“For sure today I felt a little bit differently, because I think my level of focus was on a constant level throughout the whole match,” Swiatek said. “[In] previous matches I felt like I’m kind of letting my opponents come back to the match a little bit. This time I wanted to put pressure on my opponent from beginning to end.
“I think Aryna was under pressure, so it really helped me and that was my tactics. I’m happy that I fully made it.”
Swiatek has now won 27 straight matches and will go for her fifth straight title on Sunday. If she has been “letting… opponents come back to the match a little bit” in Rome, it has been hard to tell from the score lines. In her four matches this week, she has won two of the second sets 6-1, and the other two 6-0. When everything is going right, I guess, you have to invent a few problems to solve, just to keep yourself motivated.
With her opponents giving her so little trouble, Swiatek has found her motivation in trying to adjust to the clay in Rome. Never mind that she won this tournament last year, she wasn’t happy with the way she was handling the slower stuff at the Foro Italico. By Saturday, Swiatek said she had conquered that problem, too.
“Today, I felt I really understood the clay, so it’s pretty nice,” she said.
Pretty nice, indeed. If she understands the clay in Rome as well as she did in the final there last year, her opponent on Sunday could be in for a quick and ugly afternoon. Twelve months ago, Swiatek beat Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 for the title. Would you be surprised if she comes close to doing the same thing tomorrow?