Rome | Swiatek, Gauff and Vondrousova make round 3

Seeds sprang into action on Thursday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, and Iga Swiatek led the charge into round 3 with a resounding win over Bernarda Pera, while Coco Gauff charged past Magdalena Frech, Marketa Vondrousova overtook Ana Bogdan, and Zheng Qinwen saw off Shelby Rogers.

The conditions are totally different [here], and the clay is different, to Madrid. You have to adjust your game, the ball feels heavy. I needed two days on the practice court to do that. I had a great week in Madrid, overall this season has been really good. I am really happy to be here. I have great memories of this place and it’s great to be back. Iga Świątek

There were wins also for Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Paula Badosa, amongst others, as the WTA 1000 event got back on track after rain curtailed play on Wednesday afternoon.

Top seed Swiatek kicked off her campaign with a 6-0 6-2 victory over Pera, a qualifier, in 77 minutes, fending off a late charge by the American.

Swiatek won the title in Rome in 2021 and 2022, but had to pull out mid-match in the quarter-finals with a thigh injury last year, sending Elena Rybakina on to become the eventual champion.

The 22-year old Pole reached her 3rd-round spot for the 4th consecutive year, experiencing her only opening-round loss at the Foro Italico on her 2020 tournament debut, when she fell to Arantxa Rus.

“At the end, I felt like [Pera was] playing like she has nothing to lose,” Swiatek said afterwards. “I wanted to still to do my job, and stick to my tactics. At the end I did that. Overall I’m happy with the match.”

Swiatek, who is aiming to win the title again in Rome, for a 3rd time, dominated Pera from the outset, pocketing a routine opener by breaking 3 times to bake a bagel in just half an hour before becoming embroiled in a more difficult second set, but she eventually cracked it open with a break for 3-1.

She needed 8 break points in that protracted game before taking the lead, and Pera fought to the end, erasing 2 match points at 5-1 and slamming a forehand winner to break Swiatek for the first time all day, but, in the next game, the Pole converted her 3rd match point to seal the deal, winning 72.7% of points returning the American’s second serve, 16 of 22.

“The conditions are totally different [here], and the clay is different, to Madrid,” Swiatek said later. “You have to adjust your game, the ball feels heavy. I needed two days on the practice court to do that.

“I had a great week in Madrid, overall this season has been really good. I am really happy to be here. I have great memories of this place and it’s great to be back.”

The World No 1, who now edges ahead of Rybakina as this year’s match-win leader, with 31 victories in 2024, meets Yulia Putintseva next, after the Kazakh upset Sloane Stephens, the No 31 seed from USA, 6-3 6-2.


Coco Gauff's aggressive game paid off against Magdalena Frech, despite coughing up 9 double-faults on Wednesday afternoon in Rome

© Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, 3rd-seeded Coco Gauff was a 6-3 6-3 winner over Poland’s Magdalena Frech in an hour and 28 minutes, striking 28 winners against her 25 unforced errors, with 9 of those miscues presenting as double-faults.

Ahead of the tournament, the 20-year old American was asked what she would consider to be a successful run over theses 2 weeks in Rome.

Unsurprisingly, she zeroed in on her serve, which has been her achilles heel since the clay season began, and, in her 5 clay-court matches before Rome, she averaged 9.4 double-faults per outing.

“I feel, like, the other parts of my game are improving in the right direction,” Gauff said. “I feel, like, that’s the part that if I can work that through, I think it will set me up for a very good Roland Garros.

“Other than that, I feel like I’m returning well, hitting off the ground well. For me, if I can get that part well, I can do well.”

The numbers against Frech back up Gauff’s assessment, and she remains one of the toughest players to hit through as she plays with a more aggressive mindset, which is what she needs if she hopes to go one better than her run to her first Roland Garros final 2 years ago.

“I think, last week, even though I lost 6-4 in the third, [I hit] like 14 double-faults,” Gauff said. “This is like four or five games.

“I feel, if I’m still close in these matches against Maddie [Keys], who is, like, a top player, I think [if] I just fix that detail, it will save me, and maybe those matches would turn into winning in straight sets instead of losing in three sets.”

Gauff will test herself again in her next match against Jaqueline Cristian, a lucky loser from Romania, who replaced Czech Barbora Krejcikova, the No 25 seed, in the draw, and found her way past Elina Avanesyan, a 21-year old Russian, 5-7 6-2 6-2, to reach round 3.


Marketa Vondrousova needed 3 sets to get past Ana Bogdan at the Internazionali BNL D'Italia

© Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Marketa Vondrousova, the No 6 seed and the reigning Wimbledon champion, took care of Ana Bogdan of Romania, 6-2 3-6 6-4, in 2 hours 26 minutes after nearly going down a double-break in the third set, and the Czech left-hander will meet another Romanian in Sorana Cirstea, the 28th seed, who ended 17-year old Czech Brenda Fruhvirtova’s run from qualifying, 7-5 6-0.

China’s Zheng Qinwen, the No 7 seed, reached the 3rd-round by easily defeating American Shelby Rogers, 6-2 6-0, and will play Czech Linda Noskova, the 29th seed, who fought her way past Italy’s Lucrezia Stefanini, 6-3 7-6(1), in front of a raucous crowd.


Naomi Osaka is finding her feet on the clay and won back-to-back matches after upsetting Marta Kostyuk to reach round 3 on Thursday

© Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Naomi Osaka’s match was interrupted by rain but she completed an efficient 6-3 6-2 win against World No 20 Marta Kostyuk, from Ukraine and seeded 19, the Japanese’s first career victory against a Top 20 player on clay.

It was one of her best performances since returning from maternity leave in January, and followed her straight-sets win over France’s Clara Burel on Wednesday, while it also is the first time that Osaka has posted back-to-back victories on clay since 2019.

She will face a familiar face in the 3rd-round in Daria Kasatkina, the 11th seed from Russia in their first meeting since the 2018 Indian Wells final, which Osaka won, 6-3 6-2, to capture her first Hologic WTA Tour title.

Kasatkina was a 7-5 6-1winner over Germany’s Tatjana Maria.

“I’m going into this match knowing that she has way more experience than me on clay,” Osaka said. “I feel like I’m still a baby giraffe, like I’m trying to learn my steps.

“I’m just extremely humble. I want to learn from the match I played today and hopefully apply that.”

Osaka and Kasatkina practiced together just two weeks ago at the Mutua Madrid Open.

“She smacked me in Madrid real bad,” Osaka admitted. “It was actually embarrassing. I felt like I had to apologise to her after that practice.

“I know she’s an amazing player. She moves really well. Overall I’m just really excited. She’s so nice and her brother is really kind, too.”

Facing down Kostyuk, Osaka blitzed through the 36-minute opening frame with a remarkably clean set of tennis, striking 6 winners to 8 unforced errors and taking advantage of the Ukrainian’s errors.

Kostyuk, who has been in consistently good form this season, making two WTA 500 finals, including the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix three weeks ago, but she struggled to find her range throughout the match, serving at just 40% in the opening set in which she struck 5 winners to 15 unforced errors, including 5 double-faults.

Rain suspended play with Osaka eyeing a break point opportunity when Kostyuk was serving at 1-3 down in the second set, and, when play resumed, the 4-time major champion showed no signs of slowing down.

She broke serve with a laser-like inside-out forehand to lead 4-1, and then closed out the 71-minute match with a barrage of heavy, precision baseline hitting, finishing with 19 winners to 12 unforced errors.

“I think this match is apparently a lot of firsts for me, so I’m very happy about that,” Osaka said. “I was pretty nervous coming back after the rain delay, just knowing that I really want to capitalise on that break point. Excited that I was able to do that.”

“Overall, if I had to give myself a rating, I’d say that I can see a lot of progress from my last match to now.”


Paula Badosa took down No 21 seed Emma Navarro in 3 sets after a near 2-hour battle

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Angelique Kerber upset No 17 seed Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, 6-3 6-0, bringing her total to just 4 games this week so far.

“It’s a good win for me, especially on clay,” she said. “I was feeling good so far. I’ve had not so many matches on clay, so it’s always good to have one more match on the surface.”

Kerber has claimed victories at 3 of the 4 major tournaments, but has never made it past the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 15 previous appearances.

Playing her first season since giving birth to daughter Liana, the German began this clay swing under the radar after an illness at the Billie Jean King Cup in April led to an early exit from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

“The transition to clay is always tough for me,” admitted Kerber. “There’s the longer rallies, the ball bounces much higher, and you have to adapt as well as possible. You also have to be ready, mentally, to start the fight out there.”

The 36-year-old, who has looked sharp as ever at the Foro Italico, backing up a 6-1 6-0 win over American Lauren Davis to dismiss Kudermetova in barely an hour out on Court 12, faces Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus, who took down Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 14th seed from Russia, 6-0 6-1.

Spain’s Paula Badosa upset American Emma Navarro, the No 21 seed, 1-6 6-4 6-2, continuing her resurgence on Italian clay.

Dropping the first service game, Badosa had chances to regain a break at 1-4 down, but Navarro saved them, and broke for the 3rd time to take the opener.

The second looked to be going the same way when the Spaniard woke up to gain her first break of the match before winning 4 games on the trot to go 4-2 up, and eventually levelling at a set all.

The decider saw Badosa dominate, breaking twice to ride out the match comfortably enough.

In the 3rd-round she will face Diana Shnaider, another young Russian, aged 20, who beat her compatriot Liudmila Samsonova, the World No 17, 6-1 6-3.


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