Make that 24. World No.1 Iga Swiatek's winning streak continued Wednesday at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
Returning to action for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks, Swiatek dropped serve twice in the opening set of her first round match against Elena-Gabriela Ruse, but it didn't matter much in the end: Breaking Ruse seven times in 12 opportunities, the top seed cruised to a 6-3, 6-0 win in just 68 minutes. She also hit 15 winners, five times the Romanian's total.
"I'm pretty proud I could get into the rhythm today, just take some lessons during the match and improve my game, game by game," Swiatek said in victory.
"That was pretty solid match for me ... I think she's playing really solid tennis. I could feel that today on my racquet, that she could really give back some strong hits."
No.1 Iga Swiatek is up and running in Rome.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 11, 2022
The defending champion tallies her 24th consecutive win, defeating Elena-Gabriela Ruse 63 60.
Swiatek has tallied 9 bagel sets on tour in 2022 (12 including BJK Cup). No other player has more than 4.#IBI22 pic.twitter.com/5wd6rKkr3q
Seeking a her fifth consecutive title of 2022 this week, Swiatek is also bidding to win Rome in back-to-back years. Standing between her and another quarterfinal berth is former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka, the No.16 seed, eased to a 6-2, 6-4 win over Colombia's Camila Osorio earlier in the day Wednesday. Swiatek and Azarenka have split two previous meetings on hard courts, with Swiatek winning their quarterfinal match in Adelaide in January in three sets.
🍝 Ciao Roma! Good to be back after a year. I love the atmosphere here. #clayclayclay #pastapastapasta 😅— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) May 11, 2022
🍝 Nareszcie w Rzymie po roku przerwy. Dobrze znów grać na mączce w Europie! pic.twitter.com/WeqCZvmciH
"I was actually talking with my coach, what's the difference between her game on hard court and clay. For sure we're going to analyze that. Tactically I'm going to be prepared," Swiatek said.
"I've never even had a chance to play a practice with her on clay, so I'm not sure how the game is going to look like ... She's such an experienced player that you have to be ready for variety. You have to be ready for facing a lot of variety in her game."
Resurgent Andreescu wins again
Back-to-back: After reaching Round 3 in Madrid last week, Bianca Andreescu has matched the feat in Rome. The former US Open champion toughed out a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over Spain's Nuria Parrizas Diaz in which she was a break down in both sets.
Trailing 2-1 in the opener, Andreescu won five of the next six games, and she later came from 3-0 down in the second set. She twice served to stay in the set, and eventually won the last three points of the tiebreak after Parrizas Diaz tied the score from 4-1 down.
"It was great. I think this is a great match for me to build and learn from. I'm very pumped. It was pretty emotional," Andreescu said after the match.
"She plays really well. She changes up the rhythm. She hits very hard and deep. She stands really far back ... In the second set it was just who wins the most important points kind of thing. I was really focusing on my serve, to get those in as much as I can because I know it's up and down. It was just a dog fight."
After an abridged victory over Emma Raducanu in Round 1 and a win against a lucky loser in Round 2, a qualifier now stands between Andreescu and the quarterfinals. She'll next face Croatia's Petra Martic, who was a winner against No.5 seed Anett Kontaveit.
Kasatkina ousts Fernandez in thriller
There was no such escape for Andreescu's compatriot Leylah Fernandez, however. in a 2 hour, 45-minute marathon, Daria Kasatkina came from a set down to beat her 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) and seal a spot opposite either No.2 seed Paula Badosa or qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
For the fifth time in seventh career appearances in Rome, Kasatkina is into Round 3, but she has yet to reach the quarterfinals.
Kasatkina rallied from a break down in the decider, denying Fernandez two chances to stretch her lead to 5-3 before breaking back. In the deciding tiebreak, she won six straight points to seal the match.