Swiatek Storms To Fifth Straight Title, Conquers Jabeur In Rome Final

Iga Swiatek (photo: Giampiero Sposito, Internazionali BNL d’Italia)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 15, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

It’s only fitting that with the start of Roland Garros a week away, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland and 7th-ranked Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, the two hottest players on the WTA Tour – and by extension on clay, too – would meet to decide the championship of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia Sunday afternoon at Foro Italico in the Italian capital city of Rome.

Swiatek brought a remarkable 27-match winning streak – including an impressive streak of winning 40 of her last 41 sets – into the final against Jabeur, who won her first WTA 1000 title at Madrid a week ago and had garnered 11 straight match victories of her own.

The 20-year-old Polish star, who rose to No. 1 on April 4, continued her remarkable season with her fifth straight title victory, 6-2, 6-2, in an hour and 22 minutes over Jabeur. Swiatek was visibly moved after securing championship point. She dropped to her knees, covered her face with her arms and cried uncontrollably for several moments. Tears of joy, no doubt. Then, she was hugged at the net by the 27-year-old Jabeur. Win or lose, Jabeur is always at the ready to hug her opponent and share a few kind words of praise.

Although Jabeur came in leading their career head-to-head 2-1, including a pair of wins last year at Wimbledon and Cincinnati after Swiatek won their first meeting in 2019 at Washington, D.C., this time Swiatek came focused and ready to do battle. She kept Jabeur at bay throughout the all-too-brief title match and the Tunisian star was never able to unleash her arsenal of surprising and effective drop shots that had helped her win the Mutua Madrid Open a week ago and to reach the Rome final, all the while leading the WTA in clay-court victories this year with 17.

As it happened, Swiatek jumped ahead 3-0 in the opening set with an early break of her opponent’s serve. She gained the upper hand very quickly and efficiently – exuding confidence in her hitting abilities from all positions on the court – and attacked from start to finish during the 37-minute set. Swiatek did particularly well in racking up points on Jabeur’s second serve, winning 10 of 16 opportunities. The Warsaw native won the set 6-2 by breaking Jabeur for a second time after the Tunisian netted a backhand return that halted a 15-shot rally.

Then, Swiatek broke Jabeur in the second game and fourth games of the second set and cemented her front-runner status after consolidating both breaks for a 4-0 advantage. Finally, Jabeur came alive and got one of the breaks back in the fifth game after her 12th-shot forehand winner zoomed past a surprised Swiatek. Then, she maintained her serve to trail 4-2. However, Swiatek remained tough as nails, saving four break points, and held for a 5-2 advantage. She found herself just a game away from lifting her fifth straight trophy.

In the next game, Swiatek wasted little time in reaching championship point on Jabeur’s serve at 30-40. In the final rally, which lasted nine shots, it was Jabeur who netted a backhand return that ended the title match. Swiatek, who improved to 35-3 in tour-level matches this year, had successfully defended her Rome crown and her incredible run of good fortune during the 2022 season continued.

By the conclusion, Swiatek hit nine winners to 19 unforced errors, while Jabeur tallied eight winners and 26 unforced errors. Swiatek converted five of eight break-point chances and saved six of seven break points she faced. She outpointed Jabeur 63-48.

“It was so nice to play here,” Swiatek said during the trophy ceremony, addressing the Campo Centrale crowd at Foro Italico. “Today I’m going to celebrate with a lot of tiramisu, with no regrets.”

Among the accolades, Swiatek improved to 8-1 in WTA finals and has won 16 consecutive sets in title matches. En route to her Roman triumph, she dropped a total just 21 games while accumulating victories against Elena-Gabriela Ruse, No. 16 seed Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No. 9 seed Jabeur. She’s the fourth player since 2000 to win five or more consecutive tournaments, joining Venus Williams (2000), Justine Henin (2007-08) and Serena Williams (2013).

Now, after becoming the ninth player to win back-to-back Rome titles and third youngest to win the Italian title twice – not to mention exiting with an 11-match winning streak in Rome –  it’s onward to Paris for Swiatek and fond teen-aged memories of two years ago. It was there that Swiatek began her run of title success by winning the French Open at age 19 – and this time, she’ll be a clear favorite to win it all, again.

Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova win Rome doubles title

Unseeded Russian duo Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Internazionali BNL d’Italia doubles title Sunday afternoon on Pietrangeli. In just their second event together, they defeated No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico, 1-6, 6-4, 10-7, in one hour and 15 minutes.

The Canadian/Mexico pair was trying to win their second straight WTA 1000 title after capturing the Mutua Madrid Open crown last week.

Instead, Kudermetova, who is ranked No. 4, earned her fourth career doubles title and first at the 1000 level after reaching four WTA 1000 doubles final over the past 12 months. It was the sixth career doubles title for Pavlyuchenkova and first since 2017 at Sydney. In their only other tournament together, Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova reached the quarterfinals at Prague in 2020.

By the numbers

Iga Swiatek is only the second player to win four or more WTA 1000 titles in a singles season, after Serena Williams won five during the 2013 session. Swiatek has won all four WTA 1000 events she has played in, winning at Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome. Currently, she’s won five of the last nine WTA 1000 titles.

“Quotable …”

“I want to thank my team and my family. You are with me every week and I know it’s pretty tiring sometimes, especially with me – I’m pretty tough. Hopefully, this is going to give you joy and some belief that we can go without limits.”

Iga Swiatek of Poland, two-time Rome champion, from her trophy ceremony remarks.