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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, May 13, 2022

 
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World No. 1 Iga Swiatek beat Bianca Andreescu 7-6(2), 6-0 scoring her 26th straight victory to soar into the Rome semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty

Crouching in return position, Iga Swiatek shut her eyes in a meditative state.

That was a brief calm before Swiatek’s second-set storm.

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In a blockbuster clash of Grand Slam champions, Swiatek played eye-opening tennis beating Bianca Andreescu 7-6(2), 6-0 scoring her 26th straight victory to soar into the Rome semifinals for the second consecutive season.

Tennis Express

The top-seeded Swiatek’s streak is the longest women’s winning streak in a decade since Victoria Azarenka reeled off 26 in a row back in 2012.

"[I feel] pretty confident honestly. I feel like every match I'm playing better and better," Swiatek said. "Even though the first set was pretty tight, I had some ups and downs, I feel like I could play well in important moments and break back anytime.

"I'm pretty happy that also the second set was more solid because it shows that I'm just, I don't know, learning my lessons throughout the whole match, I'm playing better and better."

The 20-year-old Swiatek is so hot right now, she could probably play points blindfolded and still have a shot to prevail.

World No. 1 Swiatek raised her record to 33-3 on the season, including 25 straight-sets wins and 13 bagel sets.



It’s Iga’s world and the rest of the player pack are just trying to push her the distance at this point. Swiatek has not lost a match since bowing to Jelena Ostapenko, 7-6 in the third set, in Dubai last February.

Playing with confidence and conviction, Swiatek could conceivably produce a perfect clay-court season.

Next up for Swiatek is third-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in a rematch of last month’s Stuttgart final, which Swiatek swept 6-2, 6-2 taking a 2-1 lead in her head-to-head series vs. the big-hitting Belarusian.

World No. 8 Sabalenka started today’s play snapping her losing streak. Sabalenka converted seven of 10 break point chances defeating American Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

It was the third-seeded Sabalenka’s first win in five meetings vs. world No. 32 Anisimova, whose 13 three-setters and nine three-set wins leads the WTA Tour this season.



Swiatek said conditions in Rome are much slower than the indoor court in Stuttgart where she beat Sabalenka in the final.

"Tthe Stuttgart clay was so much different," Swiatek said. "We could actually play with the same kind of tactics like on hard court.

"Here I feel like it's the slowest surface on tour. For sure I need to adjust. Honestly, we only have like three or four tournaments on clay, and only two of them are like on 'normal clay', because in Madrid there's altitude, which is pretty crazy."

The first pro meetings between 2019 US Open champion Andreescu and 2020 Roland Garros champ Swiatek popped with some pulsating points and jolting winners off both sides.

Committed to a fast start, Swiatek broke for 2-0.

Finding her rhythm and range, Andreescu pounced on a serve and rapped a return winner down the line breaking again for 3-2.

Swiatek stopped her three-game slide, stepping in and slamming a bounce smash to break back in the sixth game.

An unrelenting Swiatek was playing points inside the baseline hammering her heavy topspin forehand into the corners. Swiatek banged out her third break for 5-3.

Hitting quality combinations, Andreescu turned the tide in the ninth game breaking back on a Swiatek double fault. The Canadian capped her first love hold of the day with a shout leveling after 10 games.

Digging in throughout a physical game, Swiatek stood strong saving a break point for 6-5. Andreescu answered with a love hold to force the tiebreaker.

An unfortunate twist to the tiebreaker came at 1-1.

A Swiatek return looked like it landed long, was called out by the linesperson, but chair ump Cecilia Alberti came out of the chair, identified a mark and ruled the ball touched the baseline and was good.

Andreescu, who did not make a play on the ball as it was called out, tried to argue for a replay of the point or just plain replay, but unlike Madrid, Rome does not use line-calling technology even though it’s available on site for TV networks. Tennis Channel’s Hawk-Eye replay showed the ball was in fact out.

First of all, if you have line-calling technology on site why not actually use it during play? Secondly, why not encourage the chair umpires to communicate with the linesperson who initially made the call, in this case called good, to confirm they're actually checking the right mark? In the second set, Alberti seemed to select the wrong back in a call that went against Swiatek.

Obviously, between afternoon shadows across the court and sometimes choppy clay behind the baseline, calling lines is a tough assignment for both line crew and chair umpire. Still, if you have the technology on site for TV use why on earth would you not use it for match play? Makes no sense.

In the tiebreaker, Swiatek jumped out to a 4-1 lead as Andreescu, a bit rattled by the umpire’s incorrect over-rule, tried to reset.

The Swiatek topspin forehand was trampolining off the red clay. Swiatek slashed two successive forehands for 6-2.

On her first set point, Swiatek stepped in and scalded a flat backhand winner crosscourt to end a fierce fight.

The Sunshine Double champion double Andreescu’s winner output—18 to 9—in that crucial opening set.

"I knew that physically I can, you know, kind of play longer rallies and also play longer matches I think," Swiatek said. "So basically I was ready for that. Also I knew that she's going to change rhythm. She did that, which was pretty tricky. Just knowing that, yeah, I was just ready for it. Tactically I knew it about it, so I'm pretty happy that we prepared well."

Empowered by that first set performance, Swiatek was flowing freely winning 14 of 15 points in surging to a 3-0 lead. Swiatek issued three service breaks in the bagel second set to roar into the semifinal showdown against Sabalenka.

Swiatek is now 29-0 when winning the opening set at WTA 1000 tournaments.


 

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