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 for her 27th straight win and reached the Italian Open final on Saturday.
Williams won 27 in a row over 2014 and 2015. The all-time longest streak belongs to Martina Navratilova, who put together 74 straight in 1984.
“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 in Sunday’s final, Swiatek will face another player on a run, Ons Jabeur, who beat Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 for her 11th consecutive victory after lifting the Madrid Open trophy last week.
In the men’s tournament, Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his first Rome final by rallying past Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Tsitsipas’ opponent in the final will be top-ranked Novak Djokovic or Casper Ruud, who played late.
Seeking to win her fifth straight tournament, Swiatek dominated the eighth-ranked Sabalenka with 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 Pole 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, she waved her arms to urge the crowd to cheer louder for her.
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.
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, Navratilova, Gabriela Sabatini, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams.
Jabeur saved a match point late in the third with an inside-out forehand winner that landed on the line. The Tunisian then sealed it on her first match point with a backhand drop-shot winner — an appropriate ending for the player who leads the tour in successful drop shots this year with more than 100.
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 overcome local favorite Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
Tsitsipas has also played all of his matches in the midday heat.
“The heat hasn’t been easy. But that’s what I prefer,” the Greek player said.
Tsitsipas defended his title at the Monte Carlo Masters last month and is aiming for another big clay-court title before the French Open.
The Italian Open has been played at the picturesque Foro Italico, which includes a court lined by neo-classical statues, since 1935.
“It’s one of the tournaments that has the most history in our sport,” Tsitsipas said. “You can see walking around the site, one of the most beautiful stadiums — the Pietrangeli. So there’s a lot of history playing in these courts and you feel very proud that you’ve made your way here and are able to participate in such a historically rich event.”
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