Rome | Swiatek scoops up a double bagel as seeds begin to tumble

Top seed and undisputed World No 1, Iga Swiatek, opened her title defence campaign at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by delivering a double bagel on Friday, while 6 of the seeds in action at the Foro Italico in Rome bowed out of contention.

I mean, even if I would, I don't want to lose points on purpose. It doesn't make sense. So I'm always going to be that kind of player who wants to win the next point. I think most of us have that, kind of, feeling, so yeah… Iga Świątek

Swiatek was in imperious form against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who made it to the final at Rolland Garros in 2021 and has been ranked as high as No 11, winning through, 6-0 6-0, in 67 minutes and joining Chris Evert as the only women to have achieved multiple double bagel results in Rome in the open era.

The 21-year old Pole already owns a double bagel here, over Karolina Pliskova baked in 2021 Rome final.

“When I’m playing these kind of matches, I’m just trying to be focused,” Swiatek said later. “It’s actually pretty hard to be focused when you are really thinking [about the score].

“So I’m trying to remember what got me this nice score, what I should do to continue playing that well. I just want to be consistent in it.

“In my opinion, the score doesn’t really matter, and it doesn’t have any influence on my feeling on the court. I’m just trying to play my best tennis no matter what the score is.”

Pavlyuchenkova earned her spot in the 2nd-round after posting just her second main-draw singles win of an injury-addled season, defeating Italy’s Sara Errani, 6-1 6-1, in her opener on Wednesday.

Despite the windy conditions, Swiatek expertly deployed her kick-serve to hold Pavlyuchenkova at bay throughout her service games, and, although the Russian put in a strategically sound performance, she  failed to strike her closing shots consistently.

Her only break point opportunity came at 4-0 in the opening set, when Pavlyuchenkova did well to create room for a forehand down the line, but she missed it, and Swiatek went on to win the game.

Pavlyuchenkova battled back from 0-5 down to save 6 set points from 0-40 on her serve, but the World No 1’s tenacious return game ultimately broke through to seal her tour-leading 8th 6-0 set of the season.

Swiatek’s relentless march continued in the second, when she raced to victory, producing 19 winners to just 9 unforced errors as she created 11 break-point chances, and converted 6 of them, while Pavlyuchenkova finished with 7 winners and 19 unforced errors.

In fact, Swiatek won an overwhelming 57 points against Pavlyuchenkova’s total of 29.

“I mean, even if I would, I don’t want to lose points on purpose,” Swiatek told reporters. “It doesn’t make sense. So I’m always going to be that kind of player who wants to win the next point.

“I think most of us have that, kind of, feeling, so yeah…”

Swiatek can’t remember whether she has ever lost a set 6-0, although she is certain that it probably happened in the juniors.

“Well, I don’t know if I lost 6-0, 6-0,” she said. “Probably yes. Probably, like, when I was younger and I played against, like, older players.

“On WTA, I’m not sure. For sure I had matches that were, like, really one-way, especially when I started on WTA in 2019.”

Extending her win streak in the Eternal City to 12 consecutive matches, Swiatek will face Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in the 3rd-round, who upset Bernarda Pera, the 28th seed from USA, 6-4 6-4.


Paula Badosa upset 4th-seeded against Ons Jabeur at the Foro Italico

© Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Later, Spain’s Paula Badosa shocked the 2022 runner-up here, Ons Jabeur, 6-1 6-4, dispatching the 4th seed in 70 minutes, overcoming 5 breaks in the second set before coming out on top.

Jabeur was returning after a calf injury last month in Stuttgart that prevented her from defending her title in Madrid last week.

“I’m really happy, to be honest,” Badosa said later. “I think I started very, very well the first set.

“The second set, she played a little bit better. I stayed in the tough moments. I played quite well, and I’m really happy about the level.”

Badosa next faces Marta Kostyuk, the 30th seed from Ukraine, who was a 6-0 6-4 winner over American Claire Liu.


Elena Rybakina beat local favourite Jasmine Paolini in straight sets to play Anna Kalinskaya next

© Stephen Pond/Getty Images for ITF

Meanwhile, reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, the 7th seed from Kazakhstan, needed to get through a tough first set and a quick second to move past Italian Jasmine Paolini, 7-6(4) 6-1, in an hour and 34 minutes, in their first meeting.

This year’s tour leader in aces, Rybakina fired 6 on Friday to increase her 2023 total to 252.

Rybakina saw a 3-0 lead disappear as Paolini, ranked 65, pulled the opener all the way into a tiebreak, in which the Italian was up 4-2 at the changeover, but the World No 7 claimed the next 5 points to eke out the first set.

The Russian-born Kazakh won 80 percent of Paolini’s service points in the second on the way to booking a 3rd-round appearance against Anna Kalinskaya, ranked 57 from Russia, for the second straight WTA 1000 event.

Kalinskaya, who upset Rybakina in the 2nd-round of Madrid just two weeks ago, felled 25th-seeded Elise Mertens from Belgium, 6-4 4-6 6-3, after a 2 hour 33 minute battle.


Maria Sakkari advanced against Barbora Strycova and will face Marketa Vondrousova in round 3

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Another Russian, 8th-seeded Daria Kasatkina, beat Italian wild-card Lisa Pigato, 6-1 6-2, in 71 minutes, to advance to the 3rd-round where she will play Austrian Julia Grabher, who upset Swiss Jil Teichmann, the 26th seed, 7-6(4) 5-7 6-3, after a 2 hour 51 minute battle.

Meanwhile, Maria Sakkari, the 9th seed from Greece, rolled past Czech Barbora Strycova, 6-1 6-3, to face another, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova, who thrashed Bianca Andreescu, 6-0 6-1, in 55 minutes.

Vondrousova is also the 2019 Rolland Garros finalist, and a clay court specialist, while Andreescu, the No 24 seed from Canada, is more of a hard court expert, having won the US Open, also in 2019, and both have struggled with lengthy absences from the tour since their victories because of injuries.

The Czech lefty demonstrated her prowess with typical, deep, very precise groundstrokes off both wings that presented Andreescu with too many problems, firing 24 winners to just 7 unforced errors in the process, and never facing a break point in the match.

Another Czech, Karolina Muchova, upset the Italian No 1, Martina Trevisan, 3-6 6-3 7-5, in a classic duel after saving a match point.

An early break went in favour of Muchova, but, quickly, the Italian 18th seed got into her rhythm and imposed her tactics, thanks to solid returning and smart serving.

Taking power from the enthusiastic crowd, Trevisan played with the angles of her lefty forehand and read the intentions of her opponent well, especially when Muchova tried to take the net.

Maintaining momentum early in the second set, Trevisan had multiple chances to take an important lead, but she failed to convert the 4th break point of the set, two of them consecutively on 3-3, and her solid game suddenly vanished.

Muchova pounced, producing one stunning winner after the other to win 24 of the next 26 points, snagging the second set and sitting on a 4-0 lead in the decider, but Trevisan and the crowd, did not want the fight to be over.

The Italian shrugged off the deficit and, out of the blue, returned to playing the brilliant tennis she produced in the first set.

She carved her way back, point by point, until she passed the Czech and won the chance to close out the match on her opponent’s serve, when she sank a rather easy return on the match point.

After holding for 5-5, Muchova broke, and eventually held her serve to win what proved to be one of the matches of the tournament.

Muchova moves on the face another Italian veteran in Camila Giorgi next, who surprised the 15th-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia, 6-4 6-2.


Jelena Ostapenko stopped Sorana Cirstea's run at Foro Italico on Friday

© Alex Pantling/Getty Images

The No 10 seed, Barbora Krejcikova, also from Czech Republic, cruised past Danka Kovinic, after the ailing Montenegrin retired while trailing 6-2, 4-1, forced to withdraw due to a lower back injury, leaving the 2021 Roland Garros champion to face Jelena Ostapenko, the 20th seed from Latvia.

Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland Garros champion, stopped Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, the WTA 125 champion last week in Reus, 6-match winning streak, 6-3 3-6 6-2, after 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Cirstea expressed her frustration with the court conditions and, early in the first set of the match, told the chair umpire that the Grand Stand Arena court was ‘unplayable’.

“It is very bad. No, but this is the condition of the court. No, all over the court it is breaking,” Cirstea said. “I don’t understand how they make us play on this court. It is unplayable.”

Nevertheless, the third set, despite the scoreline, proved a thriller, when, after forcing a mistake with a rally backhand, Ostapenko converted her 4th break point for a 2-0 lead and cruised out to 5-1, when Cirstea saved 6 match points in a subsequent extended game before breaking to prolong the struggle.

Ostapenko quickly collected herself and used her 6th match point to break Cirstea to secure the win.

Elsewhere, 21st-seeded Donna Vekic from Croatia outran Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 3-6 6-3 6-3, to set up a 3rd-round meeting with Russian Luidmila Samsonova, who was a 6-3 6-3 winner over Anett Kontaveit from Estonia.


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