Rome | Swiatek shatters Jabeur hopes in final

20-year old Iga Swiatek continues to amaze as the World No 1 won her 5th WTA tournament in a row at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, successfully defending her title with an emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over Ons Jabeur and cementing her status as the game’s best player.

Iga, mentally, she was really good. She was always aggressive. No matter what the score is, always going forward, putting pressure on the other player. That I think is very important. Iga is the number one for a reason. She's really the leader here on tour. I personally have a lot to learn from her. Hopefully we'll have another match soon. Ons Jabeur

Despite the scoreline, the championship match was more of a hurdle for the young Pole than the mere loss of 4 games, as her emotional reaction to winning match point testified.

“I just felt huge relief… I was just really happy that I could cope with all the pressure and expectations so well,” Swiatek admitted later, having fallen to knees and sobbing on the court. “I have emotional reactions, but this one was probably the most emotional after winning the title.

“I mean, why not? It’s a week of tension and stress. Finally letting go [after that], for me that’s okay.

“Yeah, for sure it was a long path for me since the beginning, but I’m really proud of myself and my team.”

Swiatek won her 28th match in a row, and has now swept the titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart, landing every WTA 1000 tournament she has entered this season, plus she is the clear favourite to add to her 2020 French Open success when the clay-court Grand Slam tournament begins next Sunday in Paris.

Also, the Pole did not drop a set all week and, overall, has won 42 of her last 43 sets.

“At the beginning of the tournament, I didn’t know it would be possible to keep up the streak, and with all the wins,” Swiatek said. “I’m pretty happy I did it, really step by step, and I just focused on the right things because I think it led to all the success this week.

“It’s pretty hard to describe it because all these tournaments that I’ve won seem pretty surreal right now.

“I feel like just continuing the same things that I did before, really was the key to that.

“It’s pretty weird because you may think every tournament, that it takes something more, but I’m pretty happy with my solid game. I was able to just play good and also improve during the tournament.”

Iga Swiatek sobbed on the court after winning match point against Ons Jabeur

© Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Setting the tone early on, Swiatek broke Jabeur to go up 3-0, and although the Tunisian saved a break point in the 4th game to cut the deficit to 1-3, the top seed kept putting pressure her serve, and it earned her a 2nd break in the 8th game, when the 9th seed was serving to stay in the first set.

Swiatek wasted no time in the second, either, claiming back-to-back breaks to open a 4-0 lead and it looked to be plain sailing towards another routine win when Jabeur struck back, recovering one of the breaks in the 5th game.

The Tunisian, who proved how dangerous she can be by coming from behind to win her last 2 matches, carved out 3 consecutive break points as Swiatek appeared to momentarily falter.

After Jabeur’s heroics against Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, fans were hoping for another fightback, and she fired up them up by conjuring up chances, but Swiatek managed to take the game to deuce and saved another break point in a superb rally before snagging the game, ultimately breaking the Tunisian’s resolve.

In the best game of the match, Swiatek had survived a 0-40 deficit to save those 4 break points and keep Jabeur at bay, outmanoeuvring her in a series of rousing cat-and-mouse rallies before closing out the game with a big first serve.

Jabeur never recovered from blowing her chances, while Swiatek, having escaped, opened up a 5-2 lead before breaking the Tunisian again to seal a straight-set win.

“Coming back from this Love-40 game in the second set was emotionally also tough,” Swiatek said. “It was hard for me to switch the modes to be more focused and play the same kind of tennis I played before.

“I felt relief, for sure, because the second set, it got to a really physical game. At the end, I was just pretty tired.

“I’m just really happy that I could cope with all the pressure and expectations so well.”

Ons Jabeur pushed Iga Swiatek hard but came up short in the Rome final

The win ended Jabeur’s career-best 11-match winning streak, which began with the Tunisian’s title run at the Madrid Open last week.

Later, she admitted that Swiatek had offered her very few chances in the Rome final.

“I should have believed, I should have went for more shots, I should have been looser in my hands,” Jabeur said after the match. “I felt like I was trying my best to make her visit all the corners of the court, but she was already ready for that.

“She played unbelievable in the important points. That’s what makes Iga Iga, you know.”

Swiatek is now the 4th player in the 2000s to win 5 or more consecutive tournaments, after Venus Williams in 2000, Justine Henin in 2007-2008 and Serena Williams in 2013.

She also is just the 2nd player to win 4 or more WTA 1000 titles in a single season, after 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams in 2013.

Remarkably, the 2020 French Open champion has not lost more than 5 games in a final since losing the first WTA final she ever contested at 2019 Lugano, and she now heads to Paris as the overwhelming favourite to lift yet another trophy.

“Honestly I’m going to do the same way I’ve done here, also on other tournaments,” Swiatek said. “For sure it’s going to be a little bit harder with all the breaks that we’re going to have between matches.

“I also like the rhythm that we have on Grand Slams. Again, I’m going to try to do step by step, just think of the next match as I did on these tournaments.

“If I’m going to treat it as any other tournament, I think it’s going to be fine and I’m going to be able to keep it that way.”

First, though, there will be a couple of days of rest and recovery.

“Today I’m going to celebrate with a lot of tiramisu, no regrets!” Swiatek joked on court before adding: “See you at the French Open!”

Jabeur, too, will be among those favoured to contend for the title, having made history last week after becoming the first Arab or African woman to win a WTA 1000 title.

“We’ve had a great run on clay… we will learn from this match, and we will continue forward,” said Jabeur. “Pretty happy with the level I played with.

“I will just be positive with myself, and try to recover in time for the French Open. It’s my main goal.

“It helps me a lot, confidence-wise, expectation-wise,” she added. “It helps me be tougher with myself.

“I need to be in the second week. I need to go above the other results I did in Grand Slams.”

It was largely a one-sided final in Rome, as the World No 1 went up 8-1 in WTA finals played in which she has run off 16 consecutive sets.

“Iga, mentally, she was really good. She was always aggressive,” Jabeur added. “No matter what the score is, always going forward, putting pressure on the other player. That I think is very important.

“Iga is the number one for a reason. She’s really the leader here on tour. I personally have a lot to learn from her. Hopefully we’ll have another match soon.”

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Veronika Kudermetova celebrate with the Internazionali BNL D'Italia Women's Doubles winners trophies after defeating Gabriela Dabrowski & Giuliana Olmo in the final

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

On the doubles side, Russian pair Veronika Kudermetova & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova upset the No 2 seeds, Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski & Giuliana Olmos from Mexico, 1-6 6-4 [10-7], to win their first title as a team.

Playing only their second event together, Kudermetova & Pavlyuchenkova shook off the quick opening set and prevailed in 1 hour and 15 minutes, ending the 7-match winning streak by last week’s WTA 1000 Madrid champions.

Kudermetova’s 4th career title on the Hologic WTA Tour cements her status as one of the top doubles players in the world.

Currently ranked No 4, Kudermetova had reached 4 WTA 1000 doubles finals over the past year, but this is her first WTA 1000 title.

This marks Pavlyuchenkova’s 6th career doubles title, and her first since she won 2017 Sydney alongside Timea Babos over 5 years ago.

The champions had to make it through multiple close calls to even get into this week’s final.

In their first round, they saved a match point before defeating No 8 seeds and WTA 1000 Doha champions Coco Gauff & Jessica Pegula from the US.

Then, in the semi-finals, Kudermetova & Pavlyuchenkova saved 3 match points before overcoming 3rd seeds and Madrid runners-up Desirae Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs.

A similar come-from-behind scenario was forced to play out after Kudermetova & Pavlyuchenkova quickly lost the first set of Sunday’s final.

Dabrowski & Olmos were superb at net to start, reeling off 7 games in a row to grab the opening frame and an early break in the second set.

Big hitting by Kudermetova & Pavlyuchenkova turned the tide, though, as they broke serve twice in a row to take a 4-2 lead and although Dabrowski & Olmos got back level at 4-4, the Russian pair eked out the second set with a powerful backhand crosscourt winner by Pavlyuchenkova on set point.

A tight match tiebreak was cracked open by Pavlyuchenkova, who deployed a winning lob to lead 8-6, then fired a passing winner to garner double championship point at 9-6.

An unreturned serve by Kudermetova sealed the match 2 points later, denying Dabrowski & Olmos a 2nd consecutive WTA 1000 title.

Iga Swiatek celebrates with her team and the Internazionali BNL D'Italia Women's Singles trophy

© Julian Finney/Getty Images



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