Swiatek successfully defends Italian Open title against Jabeur for 28th straight win
20-year-old favoured to win French Open; No. 1 Djokovic wins for 6th time in Rome
Iga Swiatek is going into the French Open on quite a run.
The top-ranked Swiatek overwhelmed Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-2 to defend her Italian Open title on Sunday and extend her winning streak to 28 matches.
Swiatek was a surprise champion at the French Open in 2020 when she was ranked No. 54. Now the 20-year-old Polish player is the favourite to add a second title at Roland Garros when the year's second Grand Slam starts next Sunday.
"I already know that I did some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely," Swiatek said from Rome. "For sure the expectations around are higher, but I never had a problem to cut it off and not to think about it. Also I'm gaining experience at that."
Swiatek has won five straight titles during her run.
"All these tournaments that I've won seem pretty surreal right now," she said.
WATCH | World No. 1 Swiatek tops Jabeur for Italian Open title:
Jabeur was on a streak of her own with 11 consecutive wins entering the final after her Madrid Open title last week but the Tunisian's crafty game of drop shots and spins proved no match for Swiatek's swift movement and accurate groundstrokes.
"Iga is the No. 1 for a reason," Jabeur said. "She's really the leader here on tour. I personally have a lot to learn from her."
Swiatek took control right from the start, breaking Jabeur's serve in the second game of the match with a mix of finesse and power.
Swiatek won one point in that second game with a forehand lob winner after drawing Jabeur forward with a well-placed drop shot, then on her first break point she took a huge swipe at a second serve that Jabeur couldn't control.
Swiatek also kept her composure when she saved four break points at a crucial point late in the second set, sliding in to reach a drop shot then responding with a splendid backhand volley drop winner on the final break point after a 19-shot rally.
"I felt like I was trying my best to make her visit all the corners of the court," Jabeur said. "But she was already ready for that."
When a backhand from Jabeur landed in the net to end it, Swiatek sunk down to the clay and covered her face with her hands as she bent over toward the clay court.
The last player to win more consecutive matches was Justine Henin, who won 32 straight over 2007 and 2008. The all-time longest streak belongs to Martina Navratilova, who had a run of 74 in 1984.
Swiatek's last defeat came in mid-February in Dubai to Jelena Ostapenko in a third-set tiebreaker. She has won 42 of the last 43 sets she's contested.
During the women's final, a fan held up a sign that read, "Kick politics out of tennis," — an apparent reference to Wimbledon's decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus because of the war in Ukraine.
Swiatek has been playing with a ribbon attached to her hat featuring the colours of Ukraine's flag.
Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico are taking on Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Veronika Kudermetova in the doubles final.
Dabrowski and Olmos are coming off their first doubles title of the season at the Madrid Open last week.
Djokovic back in top form
Just in time.
Novak Djokovic raised his first trophy of the year at the Italian Open on Sunday and showed that he's back in top form exactly a week before the French Open starts.
After missing a large portion of the season because he wasn't vaccinated against the coronavirus, the top-ranked Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) for his sixth Rome title.
"I've been building my form the last few weeks," Djokovic said. "It couldn't be a better timing coming into Roland Garros."
Djokovic didn't drop a set all week, having won his 1,000th career match over Casper Ruud in the semifinals.
WATCH | Djokovic wins 1st tourney since November in Paris:
Djokovic needed only a half hour to win the opening set, during which Tsitsipas got so frustrated at one point that he banged his racket against his bag during a changeover and mangled the frame.
After falling behind early in the second set, Djokovic stepped up his game when Tsitsipas served for the set at 5-3.
First, Djokovic ripped a forehand cross-court return winner that landed on the line, then on the next point he pushed Tsitsipas from corner to corner before the fifth-ranked Greek player resorted to a drop shot attempt that landed in the net. Djokovic celebrated with a series of fist pumps as the crowd chanted his nickname: "NO-LE, NO-LE."
When a backhand from Tsitsipas sailed wide on the first match point, Djokovic simply raised his arms and smiled.
Djokovic, who was deported because of his un-vaccinated status ahead of the Australian Open, hadn't won a tournament since raising the Paris Masters trophy in November.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion reached the final of his home Serbia Open last month. He was beaten by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open semifinals last week.
With files from CBC Sports