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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 
Iga Swiatek

Defending champion Iga Swiatek swept seven straight games stopping Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-0 in Rome for her 24th consecutive win.

Photo credit: Getty

Returning to the Eternal City, Iga Swiatek extended her ceaseless streaking.

Reigning Rome champion Swiatek stormed through seven straight games sweeping lucky loser Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-0 in her Internazionali BNL d’Italia opener.

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

World No. 1 Swiatek stretched her career-best winning streak to 24 matches launching her title defense with a bang.

Dictating play her crackling topspin forehand and smooth movement, Swiatek broke serve seven times and won 16 of 21 points played on Ruse’s second serve in a 68-minute conquest.

"I'm pretty proud I could get into the rhythm today, just take some lessons during the match and improve my game, game by game," Swiatek said. "Yeah, that was pretty solid match for me."

Tennis Express

Chasing her fifth title of the season, Swiatek improved to 31-3 on the season with her last loss coming to former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai last February.

Winning isn’t easy, but Swiatek sure makes it look efficient. Swiatek has dispensed bagels in five of the last 16 sets she’s played.

Last month, Swiatek stomped fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2 in the Stuttgart final to capture her fourth consecutive championship.

Opting to skip last week’s Mutua Madrid Open to recover and recharge ahead of Roland Garros, Swiatek spent a short training block at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca.

Today, she follower her tennis hero Nadal onto Center Court after his 6-3, 6-1 win over John Isner, and played oppressive tennis once she found her range.



In front of a Rome crowd that included former Wimbledon finalist Aga Radwanska, Swiatek was quick off the mark bursting out to a 4-1 lead.

The lucky loser raked a return crosscourt drawing an awkward error from Swiatek to regain one break in the sixth game.

Shrugging it off, Swiatek streaked forward behind a forehand and knocked off the high forehand volley for double break point. The imposing Swiatek forehand prompted Ruse to try to hit bigger, but she double-faulted back the break propelling the Pole to a 5-2 lead.

Signs of inactivity-induced rust seeped through on Swiatek’s serve.

The top seed double faulted away a second straight break in the eighth game.

Resetting after each break, Swiatek swatted a forehand into the corner converting her fourth break in five Ruse service games to pocket the 41-minute opener. Swiatek hit eight winners compared to two for Ruse in the first set.

A fast first step and proactive footwork has separated Swiatek from the rest of the pack this season.

Hovering right on the baseline, Swiatek was quick to step inside the court and torch her two-hander crosscourt breaking to start the second set with a 2-0 lead.

Hitting a higher gear as the match progressed, Swiatek lasered a forehand down the line to seal her return win.

The victory vaults Swiatek into a round-of-16 clash vs. former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

"I've never even had a chance to play a practice with her on clay, so I'm not sure how the game is going to look like," Swiatek said of Azarenka. "But honestly I've been repeating myself, just focusing on my things that I want to improve but also on my strength. I think it's going to give me a lot of confidence in any match, so I'm going to keep doing that.

"For sure tactically we need to prepare today because she's such an experienced player that you have to be ready for many, like, variety. You have to be ready for facing a lot of variety in her game."

Earlier, the 16th-seeded Azarenka broke six times in a 6-2, 6-4 win over 20-year-old Colombian Camila Osorio.

It was a good day for American women as a trio of Americans advanced.

Amanda Anisimova beat Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic 7-6(5), 6-1.

Former Roland Garros semifinalist Anisimova awaits either two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep or Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins next.



Clay may be Coco Gauff’s best surface and she took another step forward today. Gauff backed up her opening-round win over former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber conquering compatriot Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-4.

Next up for Gauff is Maria Sakkari in a match of two tennis speedsters.

No. 4-seeded Sakkari eliminated Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-2.

It was Sakkari's second win since her run to the Indian Wells final where she fell to Swiatek.

The 18-year-old Gauff beat Sakkari 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 in Rome last year, her lone victory in four meetings against the Greek.

"Playing her last year definitely gave me a lot of confidence," Gauff said. "That was definitely the match that I think kind of set up my confidence for the clay season. I lost to her before I think at US Open, and she was starting to do really well. She also made semis I think last year at the French. We both had a good clay season.

"This match, regardless of the result, as long as I put up my best fight, I think I'm going to be happy. I'm super excited for the match because I feel like whenever I play her, there's always some good points. I'm going to be ready to run a lot because she hits some big balls, but I think it's going to be a good one."

Madrid finalist Jessica Pegula advanced without striking a shot when scheduled opponent Anhelina Kalinina withdrew.

The 13th-seeded Pegula will play Wimbledon semifinalist Aryna Sabalenka next.

The third-seeded Sabalenka slammed six aces, won 24 of 30 first serve points and did not face a break point blasting past Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-0 in 49 minutes.

Shuai Zhang Sabalenka has won two of three meetings vs. Pegula, including sweeping clay-court encounters at the 2021 Madrid and 2020 Roland Garros.

 

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