If there were any lingering questions about who is the new dominant force in women’s tennis, Iga Swiatek put that to rest with a 7-6 (2), 6-0 victory over 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu on Friday to reach the Italian Open semifinals and extend her winning streak to 26 matches.
The sport was shocked when Ash Barty announced her sudden and immediate retirement while holding the No. 1 ranking two months ago. Add in that Serena Williams hasn’t played in nearly a year and there were plenty of questions about who might step up and assert themselves as the new woman to beat.
Well, since February, nobody has beaten Swiatek, who assumed the No. 1 spot by default when Barty removed herself from the rankings.
Considering her prowess on hard courts, the often-injured Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., has been tossed around as a potential No. 1. But Swiatek slowly wore Andreescu down in a lengthy first set as she dictated the tiebreaker by moving her opponent from side to side.
In men’s action, fifth-seed Casper Ruud defeated 13th-seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., 7-6 (7), 7-5.
In all, Swiatek produced 27 winners to Andreescu’s 12 and converted all six of her break points.
The defeat ended an impressive run in Rome for Andreescu, who played in just her third tournament since returning from a months-long hiatus since taking time off for physical and mental recuperation.
Friday’s match was the first WTA 1000 series clay quarterfinal in Andreescu’s career.
Swiatek’s semifinal opponent will be third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who rallied past Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 for her first victory over the American in five tries.
Shapovalov was coming off a third-round win over injured Rafael Nadal, but couldn’t follow up with a victory against Ruud.
Ruud came out on top in a back-and-forth first-set tiebreak, going up 8-7 on return then making good on his first set point on serve.
The second set came down to a crucial 11th game that saw Shapovalov fight off seven break points before Ruud finally won the game and took a 6-5 lead.
Serving for the match, Ruud finished Shapovalov off with an ace.
Later, top-ranked Novak Djokovic was playing Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime for the first time.
In other men’s action, fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas served 10 aces to defeat 20-year-old Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2 at the Foro Italico.
It’s the third consecutive Masters semifinal on clay for Tsitsipas, who defended his Monte Carlo Masters title last month and then was beaten by Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open semifinals last weekend.
Tsitsipas will face Zverev again in the Rome semifinals after the 2017 champion beat Cristian Garin 7-5, 6-2.
Swiatek is attempting to win her fifth straight tournament and defend her title in Rome.
The last player to win more consecutive matches was Williams, who had a streak of 27 in a row in 2014 and 2015.
Swiatek’s run makes her a favourite to win a second French Open title when the year’s second Grand Slam gets underway in nine days. When Swiatek won at Roland Garros in 2020 she was ranked No. 54 — making her the lowest-ranked woman to win the Paris major in the Open era.
Swiatek’s recent success has also given her a comfortable 2,000-point lead in the rankings over No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova, who is currently out injured.
Tsitsipas kept his cool with nearly the entire crowd of 10,500 fans supporting Sinner, the Italian who is ranked 13th and considered a future Grand Slam contender.
Sinner dropped to 0-12 in his career against opponents ranked in the top five.
Sinner was treated by a physical trainer between the first and second sets and appeared hampered physically as the match wore on.
There was an interruption of more than 10 minutes when Tsitsipas held his second match point because a spectator fell ill near the top of the stadium. But Tsitsipas held his nerve and won the point when play resumed by running down a drop shot and responding with a forehand winner up the line.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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