Swiatek Wins Third Rome Title With Dominance and Patience

Iga Swiatek (photo: Foto FITP)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 18, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Coming into the women’s singles final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia Saturday afternoon, only two women had swept Madrid and Rome in a single season, Dinara Safina in 2009 and Serena Williams in 2013.

Now, after her 6-2, 6-3 victory over World No. 2 and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in one hour and 29 minutes on Foro Italico’s Campo Centrale – and two weeks after she saved three championship points to defeat Sabalenka for her third title of the season at Madrid – add World No. 1 Iga Swiatek to the mix to make it a trio.

While only Williams has been able to win Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros in a single season, the Polish star Swiatek has now won 12 straight matches and becomes a three-time champion in Rome. She has already won three Roland Garros crowns and, no doubt, will be a favorite to win her fourth when the year’s clay-court major begins in Paris on May 26.

Swiatek, who did not lose any sets during her Roman conquest, defeated qualifier Bernarda Pera, Yulia Putintseva, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, World No. 3 Coco Gauff and Sabalenka en route to winning her fourth crown of the season and 21st career title. She improved her career head-to-head against Sabalenka to 8-3, including 4-1 in clay finals, and is now 36-4 in 2024 – most wins on tour this season. Sabalenka, who was appearing in her first Rome final, dropped to 25-7.

On Saturday, Swiatek wasted little time or effort in establishing herself. She dominated Sabalenka in the Belarusian’s second service game of the match and broke her with a deft backhand winner. Then, Swiatek consolidated the break for an early 3-1 advantage in the first set as she kept her opponent hitting from her back foot.

Soon, Swiatek gained a double-break lead at 5-2 after Sabalenka weakly netted a ninth-shot backhand, one of her 12 unforced errors in the opening set. Then, she closed out the 36-minute opening set 6-2 on her first set point without much of a fight. In the first set, Swiatek, who outpointed Sabalenka 30-16, won 89 percent of her first serve points to just 43 percent by Sabalenka. She did not face any break points.

As the second set unfolded, Swiatek faced five break points in her first service game and erased them all before holding serve to end a 10-minute, 15-point tussle for 1-all. Then, in her next service game, she saved two more break points to hold for 2-all.

Swiatek went ahead by a set and a break when she broke Sabalenka on her second chance in the seventh game to go ahead 4-3. Quickly she consolidated with a seventh-shot backhand winner to hold at love for an insurmountable 5-3 advantage.

Finally, Swiatek closed out the championship victory on her second match-point opportunity after Sabalenka struck a third-shot forehand into the net. It was Swiatek’s eighth career win over Sabalenka in 11 meetings, her 10th career WTA 1000 title – and fourth on clay – and she now has nine straight wins in finals.

“Aryna, another final, another really great battle,” Swiatek said during the trophy ceremony. “After Madrid, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Thanks for sharing the court with me and really pushing me to get better.”

Rome is the third tournament Swiatek has become a three-time champion, along with Doha and Roland Garros. “Hopefully, if I win next time, there’s going to be tiramisu here,” she said, keeping things light and lively during the trophy ceremony. “I’m still waiting!”

Swiatek finished the title match by hitting an economical 11 winners to just eight unforced errors, while Sabalenka struck 18 winners but committed a hefty 28 unforced errors. She converted four of seven break points and saved all seven break points she faced from Sabalenka. Swiatek outpointed her opponent 66-45.

“Congrats on an incredible couple of weeks,” Sabalenka said to Swiatek, after receiving her runner-up plate. “I hope we’re going to make it to the final of Roland Garros – and I’m going to get you there. Just kidding! At least I’ll try to do better than today.”

Throughout, Swiatek, who turns 23 later this month, showed dominance and patience against Sabalenka as well as the rest of the Rome draw. It will serve her well as she heads to Paris to defend her Roland Garros title. Swiatek and Sabalenka will remain ranked No. 1 and No. 2 and be on opposite sides of the draw. So, a French Open title showdown is entirely possible.

“We’ll see about that Roland Garros final,” Swiatek said to Sabalenka, after receiving her Rome trophy. Stay tuned.

Around the Foro Italico

The men’s doubles title lineup was finalized on Saturday after No. 1 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina fended off Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan and Ben Shelton of the United States, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the Rome final.

The Spanish/Argentine duo, who won the 2020 Rome title and will be playing in their fourth title match of the season, won the 71-minute match by outpointing their opponents 59-49. They have not dropped a set through their first matches.

On Sunday afternoon, Granollers and Zeballos will face Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Mate Pavic of Croatia, who defeated Italians Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori, 6-2, 7-6 (5), in an hour and 21 minutes by converting all three of their break-point chances to reach their first ATP Masters 1000 final as a team. They improved to 17-10 on the season and will be playing in their second final of the season after winning a title at the start of the season on Hong Kong.

The women’s doubles final on Sunday will match American Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, playing their first tournament together, against Italy’s Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini, who won a title at Linz earlier this season at Linz.

Sunday’s Foro Italico order of play

By the numbers

The meeting between World No. 1 Iga Swiatek and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka marked the first meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 in the tournament’s history.


“It’s a totally different story. I’ll just focus on being present.”

Iga Swiatek, during her post-match press conference after her semifinal win, in comparing playing Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid final versus the Rome final.