Swiatek equals Serena Williams with 27-match winning streak
By ANDREW DAMPF
ROME (AP) Not since Serena Williams seven years ago has another woman had such a hot streak.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek routed Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday to extend her winning streak to 27 matches and reach the Italian Open final.
Williams won the same number of consecutive matches over 2014 and 2015.
"I'm just constantly surprising myself that I can do better and better," Swiatek said. "I feel like I actually can believe now that the sky's the limit. That's the fun part."
Aiming to defend her Rome title and win her fifth straight tournament, Swiatek dominated the eighth-ranked Sabalenka with a mix of power, consistency and finesse.
While she struggled with her serve at times, Swiatek was able to consistently crush both forehand and backhand winners on the slow, red clay court at the Foro Italico. The 20-year-old Polish player also hit a delicate backhand half-volley winner in the final game of the first set.
Swiatek had the same number of winners and unforced errors, 15, while Sabalenka produced just eight winners and had a whopping 31 unforced errors.
"Today I felt like I really understood the clay," Swiatek said.
The hard-hitting Sabalenka took a medical timeout late in the second set and had her back treated.
When it was over, Swiatek urged the crowd to cheer louder for her by waving her arms.
Swiatek, who was a surprise champion at the French Open in 2020 when she was ranked No. 54, will be the favorite to add a second title at Roland Garros when the year's second Grand Slam starts next weekend.
First, though, Swiatek will face either Ons Jabeur - who is on a 10-match winning streak - or Daria Kasatkina of Russia in Sunday's final.
The men's semifinals later featured Novak Djokovic against Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
There's more to Swiatek's super season than her winning streak.
With more than half the season still to go, Swiatek has already won as many matches this year (36) as she did in all of 2021.
She also became the seventh player to reach two finals in Rome before turning 21 after Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Gabriela Sabatini, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams.
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Updated May 14, 2022