Island tour

Swiatek’s 27-game winning streak is the best on tour since Serena’s in 2015

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Iga Swiatek of Poland celebrates after winning her semi-final match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the Italian Tennis Open in Rome on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PA

Not since Serena Williams seven years ago has another woman had such a hot streak.

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek defeated Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 for her 27th consecutive win and reached the Italian Open final on Saturday.

Williams won 27 in a row in 2014 and 2015. The longest streak of all time belongs to Martina Navratilova, who won 74 in a row in 1984.

“I constantly surprise myself that I can do better and better,” Swiatek said. “I feel like I can actually believe now that the sky’s the limit. That’s the fun part.”

Aiming to defend her title in Rome in Sunday’s final, Swiatek will face another runaway player, Ons Jabeur, who beat Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 for her 11th consecutive victory after winning the Madrid Open trophy last week. .

In the men’s tournament, Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his first final in Rome beating Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Tsitsipas’ opponent in the final will be Novak Djokovic or Casper Ruud, who played late.

Seeking to win his fifth tournament in a row, Swiatek dominated eighth-placed Sabalenka with power, consistency and finesse.

While she struggled at times with her serve, Swiatek was able to consistently crush forehand and backhand winners on the red clay court of Foro Italico. The 20-year-old Pole also hit a tricky 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 31 unforced errors.

“Today I felt like I really understood 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, she waved her arms to urge the crowd to cheer her louder.

Swiatek, who was a surprise French Open champion in 2020 when ranked No. 54, will be the favorite to add a second French Open title when the second Grand Slam of the year begins next weekend.

There’s more to Swiatek’s super season than his winning streak.

With more than half of the season remaining, Swiatek has already won as many games this year (36) as in 2021.

She also became the seventh player to reach two finals in Rome before turning 21 after Chris Evert, Navratilova, Gabriela Sabatini, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams.

Jabeur saved a match point late in the third with a forehand winner inside out that landed on the line. The Tunisian then sealed it on her first match point with a backhand winner – a fitting end for the player who leads the circuit with more than 100 successful shots this year.

In all, Jabeur hit 47 winners to Kasatkina’s 13.

Tsitsipas has been pushed to three sets in three of his four matches this week, having also defeated home favorite Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the quarter-finals.

Tsitsipas also played all of his matches in the midday heat.

“The heat was not easy. But that’s what I prefer,” said the Greek player.

Tsitsipas defended his title at the Monte Carlo Masters last month and is aiming for another big title on clay ahead of Roland Garros.

The Italian Open has been played since 1935 at the picturesque Foro Italico, which includes a court lined with neo-classical statues.

“It’s one of the tournaments with the most history in our sport,” said Tsitsipas. “You can see as you walk around the site, one of the most beautiful stadiums – the Pietrangeli. So there is a lot of history playing out on these courts and you are very proud to have made your way here. and to have been able to take part in an event so rich in history.

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf