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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, May 12, 2022

 
Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek surged through 12 of the final 14 games outpacing Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1 to stretch her winning streak to 25 matches in Rome.

Photo credit: Getty

Spinning her wheels in a 0-3 deficit, Iga Swiatek was struggling to gain traction on the Grand Slam champion across the net.

The world No. 1 stepped up to the line and revved her game to a higher gear.

More: Shapovalov Screams At Rome Fans Shut the F--k Up!

Swiatek surged through 12 of the final 14 games outpacing former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1 to stretch her winning streak to 25 matches on Rome’s red clay.

The reigning Rome champion raised her 2022 record to 32-3, including 24 straight-sets wins and 12 bagel sets.

"Well, for sure I didn't start well, and everybody could see that," Swiatek said. "I'm really happy with the way I reacted and how I improved in the first set. Also how different second set looked to the first one because I could really reset and really change the way I played. That's the most positive thing for me."

Tennis Express

All roads lead to Rome. Lately, all courts are freeways of expression for Swiatek’s career-best roll.

The 20-year-old holds the Pole position on Tour putting together the longest WTA winning streak since Serena Williams roared through 27 straight wins in 2015.



The woman who swept the Sunshine Double is extending her red-clay reign. Swiatek scored her eighth straight Rome win setting up a blockbuster battle of major champions vs. Bianca Andreescu with a semifinal spot on the line.

A resurgent Andreescu saved six of seven break points stopping Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4 in one hour, 43 minutes.

Former US Open champion Andreescu is just a year older than Swiatek, but this will be their first Tour-level meeting. Andreescu, who took down 10th-seeded Emma Raducanu in an opening-round clash of US Open champions, said this duel is a dream come true.

“I’m definitely very excited,” Andreescu told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I usually don’t look at the draw before I play, but my coach before the first round said who do you want to play?

“I said is it Iga? And they’re like no. And actually, my second guess was Emma because I wanted to play both of them so I guess both of my dreams are coming true so I’m very excited.”



WTA wins leader Swiatek turned an exhausting serve test into exhilarating win. Swiatek more than doubled Azarenka’s serve points in the opening set playing 74 points in her serve games compared to 30 for the Belarusian. All five of Swiatek’s serve games in the first set went to deuce.

Striking the ball cleanly, Azarenka worked through a nine-minute game breaking Swiatek for a double-break lead after 24 minutes of play.

While Swiatek’s heavy topspin forehand commands attention, she hurt Azarenka with flat backhand strikes down the line. Swiatek slashed a backhand winner breaking back for 1-3.

"Well, basically I didn't want to take that much risk because I didn't feel like I was controlling the ball well," Swiatek said of the early deficit. "I needed to kind of play little bit more to the middle and maybe just wait for her, how she's going to react to some longer rallies.

"Also the first few games were pretty tight. I had some chances to just win my service games. In important moments I didn't play well. I wanted to, yeah, just play better in the important points."

Fast feet and the skill to change direction down the line sparked Swiatek’s comeback. Flashing a forehand down the line, Swiatek held in the fifth game then exploited an Azarenka double fault to break again leveling after six games.

An unfortunate distraction in the eighth game cost Azarenka.

Serving at 3-4, Azarenka was forced to pause when a guy with a front-row seat suddenly sauntered down the steps while the Belarusian was facing break point. Not only did the guy take his time selecting his seat when there were plenty to choose from, he proceeded to pull out the cell phone and make a call.

"Close the gate!" Azarenka implored an usher though a few fans continued to wander though. That delay dented Azarenka’s concentration, she double faulted away the break and a 5-3 lead.

Though the former No. 1 broke back, Swiatek was undeterred. The top seed banged a backhand return crosscourt breaking again to take the 80-minute opening set.

Swiatek saved 8 of 11 break points and converted 4 of her 5 break-point chances while annihilating the Azarenka second serve. Swiatek won 12 of 13 points played on the Belarusian’s second delivery.

Though Azarenka broke to start the second set, that was a mere speed bump for Swiatek.

Getting her body behind the ball and driving through her shots, Swiatek opened up her entire arsenal streaking through the final six straight games. Swiatek won 16 of the final 19 points setting up another Grand Slam champion showdown vs. Andreescu.


 

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