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Iga Swiatek wins twice to reach Rome final, now a win away from Top 10
The 2020 Roland Garros champion beat both Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff in a seven-hour span to reach the second-biggest final of her career. Up next: Karolina Pliskova.
Published May 15, 2021
Iga Swiatek was unstoppable in Rome on Saturday, winning both her rain-delayed quarterfinal match against Elina Svitolina and her semifinal with Coco Gauff to reach the final of the WTA 1000 event.
She’ll play Karolina Pliskova on Sunday for her second-biggest title and a spot in the Top 10.
“I’m still pretty young so hopefully I’m going to be ready,” Swiatek said. “I know it’s going to be a final, but I had a pretty fast first round. I feel like I’m okay with that. I was practicing really hard two weeks ago or three weeks ago, before Madrid. My practices had more intensity than these two matches.
“I know that my body is ready. If I’m going to take it well mentally, it’s going to be okay.”
After narrowly escaping her third-round match on Thursday—she fought off two match points down 6-3, 6-5 to beat Barbora Krejcikova in two hours and 50 minutes, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5—Swiatek ended up not playing a match on Friday as rain wreaked havoc on the schedule, postponing several matches.
Swiatek was ready to go again on Saturday, though. She took the court at 11am local time for her quarterfinal against Svitolina, closing out the 2017 and 2018 Rome champion at about 1pm, 6-2, 7-5. By 4pm the 19-year-old was back on court for her semifinal against Gauff, a battle between the Top 2 teenagers in the WTA rankings—she beat the 17-year-old American, 7-6 (3), 6-3, just before 6pm.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Swiatek said. “Before my match with Elina, I wasn’t really thinking about what’s going to happen after. I was kind of searching for my game still, even though it was a quarterfinal. I just played with no expectations. She’s one of the best players in the world right now.
"I started worrying about the semifinal right after I finished, basically. Kind of mad that I couldn’t even celebrate one evening that I won. I told myself there’s nothing I can do about it. I tried to approach it in a positive way because I knew I was in a good rhythm and I’m playing really good tennis.”
Swiatek and Gauff were playing against each other for the first time.
“It’s always hard to play against the young superstar, especially when I’m not used to that because I was always the youngest one,” the Pole said. “I just tried to have a high level of energy, even though it was my second match. I was feeling really good on the return—I know her biggest weapon is her serve, so I tried to use that. Also tactically I did everything really well. I felt like I was in control.”
Swiatek’s win over the No. 6-ranked Svitolina was her third career Top 10 win, following wins over No. 2 Simona Halep and No. 6 Sofia Kenin en route to the 2020 Roland Garros title. Awaiting her in the Rome final is No. 9 Karolina Pliskova, who beat Petra Martic in her semifinal match, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
Pliskova is through to her third straight Rome final—she won it in 2019 and finished runner-up in 2020.
The final between Pliskova and Swiatek will be a first-time meeting.
“I think she’s, like, super tough on clay,” Pliskova said of Swiatek. “I think she was also struggling a bit this week, and when you get some wins when you are match point down or something, it gives you extra strength. Happen to me, happen to her. We both have that match in this week.
“She’s the champion of Roland Garros last year. It’s not going to be easy.”
Swiatek, who’s already sitting at a career-high of No. 15 right now, will improve on her ranking no matter how she does in the final—she’ll rise to No. 12 with a loss and to No. 10 with a win.
Pliskova will rise from No. 9 to No. 8 regardless of what happens, bumping Serena Williams to No. 9.