17 May 2024, 08:51

Swiatek to face Sabalenka for Rome title and Serena record

ROME, May 17, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Iga Swiatek swept past Coco Gauff to reach the Rome Open final on Thursday where Aryna Sabalenka will stand in her way of a third title and her bid to match a Serena Williams record.
   World number one Swiatek eased to a 6-4, 6-3 win over US Open champion Gauff for an 11th straight clay-court victory while second seed Sabalenka defeated Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-2.
   Poland's Swiatek, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, defeated third seed Gauff for the 10th time in 11 encounters.
   Swiatek ended with 26 winners and broke her American opponent four times and now stands one victory away from duplicating the Madrid-Rome clay trophy double achieved by Williams 11 years ago. "I'm not thinking about statistics or history," said Swiatek, the 2021 and 2022 champion in Rome.
   "I'm just playing day by day. It's easier that way, it lets you play more freely."
   Gauff admitted she was out-played.
   "I thought I played well the majority of the match, it came down to certain moments," she said.
   "She came up clutch (with) a lot of balls on the line, close to the line, which is what she does. It just happened at some tough moments for me."
   Saturday's final will be a repeat of the Madrid final earlier this month won by Swiatek.
   "I'm super-happy for my first final here," Sabalenka said. "Playing Iga always gives me extra motivation.
   "Our matches are always close and played at a high level. Hopefully we will bring our best tennis on Saturday."
   In the men's quarter-finals, Chile's Nicolas Jarry powered past 2022 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach his first Masters semi-final.
   The 28-year-old fought back to defeat the sixth-seeded Greek 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 as the world number 24 set up a last-four showdown with Tommy Paul of the United States.
   - Jarry stuns Tsitsipas -
   "I think beating Stefanos on clay is a good achievement. Certainly happy with my fight today, for how I played and how I maintained myself," said Jarry who crunched 23 forehand winners including one timed at 166km/h.
   Jarry saved 11 of the 13 break points he faced before converting a fourth match point to improve his head-to-record to 4-2 over Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo Masters earlier in the European clay-court season.
   Jarry joins countryman Alejandro Tabilo in the semi-finals.
   They are the first Chilean duo to reach the semi-finals of an ATP Tour event since 2006 in Vina del Mar, where Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu made the last four.
   His victory on Thursday was his third over a top 10 player this year after defeating Carlos Alcaraz in Buenos Aires and Casper Ruud in Miami.
   Tabilo, who knocked out Novak Djokovic last weekend, will face former champion and third seed Alexander Zverev in Friday's other semi-final.
   Paul reached a clay court semi-final for the first time in his career with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 upset of seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz.
   The 14th seeded Paul is the first American to reach the final four at the Foro Italico since Reilly Opelka in 2021.
   His momentum-shifting quarter-final came down to the wire, with a 15-minute final game capping off nearly two and three-quarter hours on court.
   Paul finally came through on his fourth match point as Hurkacz sent a return long.
   The match featured 13 breaks of serve, with Paul advancing with 29 winners and 41 unforced errors.
   "I started well but it got away from me in the second and start of the third," Paul said. "I had to stick around in the match. I found the energy to get it going again."
   Hurkacz, who knocked Rafael Nadal out in the second round, was unable to get his massive serve up to speed against Paul who knocked out defending champion Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round.

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