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Swiatek triumphs over Andreescu, to meet Sabalenka in Rome semis

Swiatek triumphs over Andreescu, to meet Sabalenka in Rome semis

ROME, Italy — No.1 seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 26 with a 7-6(2), 6-0 defeat of Bianca Andreescu in 1 hour and 44 minutes to reach the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinals.

Swiatek, 20, now owns the joint-fifth longest streak this century, matching the 26 consecutive wins with which Victoria Azarenka began 2012. Only Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Justine Henin have won more matches in a row since 2000.

“Being in that kind of group is like a dream come true for me,” she said afterwards. “I wouldn’t think of that when I was younger. I’m pretty happy that I could do that because consistency was the thing I really wanted to work on last year. This year I feel like it clicked.”

Swiatek has also won 38 of her last 39 sets dating back to the fourth round of Indian Wells, with the only dropped set coming to Liudmila Samsonova in the Stuttgart semifinals. The 2020 Roland Garros champion continued her pattern of excellent in the last eight. Swiatek has now won 12 of her 13 tour-level quarterfinals, with the only exception being her loss to Maria Sakkari at Roland Garros 2021.

It was the first per meeting between two players who captured their first Grand Slams as teenagers within the past three years. Swiatek and Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion only clashed once as juniors, with Swiatek winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in 2016 Junior Fed Cup action.

Match management: An absorbing first set saw momentum shift incrementally back and forth. Both players probed each other’s games while finding their own range, and as soon as one seemed to have the upper hand, the other fought back.

Swiatek had the brighter start, firing a series of backhand winners to take a 2-0 lead. Andreescu hit back with three games on the trot to edge in front, 3-2. Swiatek responded with her own trio of games, slamming a forehand crosscourt to seal a 5-3 lead. Some ferocious returning from Andreescu pegged the World No.1 back to 5-5.

Fittingly, the opening act was decided by a tiebreak. Andreescu was rattled on the third point by an overrule in favor of Swiatek, who seized the last momentum shift and stayed on the front foot, sealing her first set point with an authoritative backhand one-two punch.

After such a tighty contested first set, Swiatek loosened up to race through the second, coming out on top of a series of electric baseline exchanges to break Andreescu three times. The Canadian clung on valiantly, saving two match points in style, but her backhand found the net on a third.

Rome: Swiatek triumphs over Andreescu in marquee QF for 26th straight win

2022 Rome

Swiatek on preparing to face Andreescu: “I wasn’t really expecting anything because I didn’t actually know how she’s playing after the break. I watched many of her matches before she did that break. Right now I didn’t know if her tennis is the same or it changed a little bit.

“But I knew that physically I can play longer rallies and also play longer matches. So basically I was ready for that. Also, I knew that she’s going to change rhythm. She did that, which was pretty tricky. Just knowing that, I was just ready for it. Tactically I knew it about it, so I’m pretty happy that we prepared well.”

Sabalenka claims first win over Anisimova in five meetings

No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka snapped a three-year, four-match streak of futility against Amanda Anisimova at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, gaining her first win in the series to advance 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to the semifinals.

Sabalenka had lost to Anisimova twice on the Grand Slam stage in 2019, at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, as well as twice more in this year’s clay season, in Charleston and Madrid.

Highlights: Sabalenka d. Anisimova

But this was the deepest into a draw that the pair had faced off. Anisimova was bidding to reach her second semifinal at WTA 1000 level or above, and biggest since her breakout run at Roland Garros 2019. But three-time WTA 1000 champion Sabalenka rose to the occasion to book her second semifinal spot of 2022, and biggest since the US Open last year.

Match management: The clash started off in line with their previous encounters. Anisimova redirected Sabalenka’s power with ease, and even when she lost her initial break lead, retained the momentum. Sabalenka coughed up five double faults in the first set, including twice down break point.

But it was Anisimova who would be more beset by double faults through the rest of the match, committing two of her own facing separate break points in the second set. Sabalenka, meanwhile, found her margins with impressive discipline. Having tallied 14 unforced errors in the first set, she reduced that number to just four in the second set and seven in the third.

A punishing forehand winner gained the first of two breaks for Sabalenka in the decider. Though another pair of double faults caused her to lose one of these, it was merely a blip, and she closed out the match with her first ace of the day.

looking ahead: Swiatek leads the overall head-to-head with Sabalenka 2-1, including both of their meetings this year in the Doha quarterfinals and Stuttgart final. Across those two matches, Swiatek conceded just nine games.

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