ROME, Italy -- World No.1 Iga Swiatek advanced to her fifth consecutive Hologic WTA Tour final on Saturday, defeating No.8 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Seeking her eighth career title, the 20-year-old Polish star will face either Ons Jabeur or Daria Kasatkina in Sunday's final.
Swiatek has now won 40 of her past 41 sets and the victory extended her winning streak to 27 matches, the fourth longest of the century. Serena Williams won 27 consecutive matches from the 2014 WTA Finals through 2015 Madrid.
With wins in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami, Swiatek is the first player since Simona Halep in 2017 to make four WTA 1000 finals in a single season. Swiatek has lost just 17 games en route to the Rome final. In the past 25 years at the Foro Italico, only Williams (10), Kim Clijsters (13) and Martina Hingis (15) have lost fewer.
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"At these tournaments where we play day after day, we don't really get time to celebrate," Swiatek said. "Right after we finish the previous match, we have to think about the next one. It's pretty tough. But I know that after I'm going to be really proud of myself. For sure I'm going to have time to think about what I did.
"But, yeah, I mean, I'm just constantly surprising myself that I can do better and better. I feel like I actually can believe now that the sky's the limit. That's the fun part, for sure."
Swiatek lost her first meeting against Sabalenka last fall at the WTA Finals but has bounced back to win their next three. The Pole posted straight-set victories over Sabalenka on her way to two of her four titles this season, first in the semifinals of Doha and then in the final of Stuttgart.
Mamma mia!! 😮@iga_swiatek | #IBI22 pic.twitter.com/Q9tMryt3Wt— wta (@WTA) May 14, 2022
Under the beaming sun on Court Centrale, Swiatek put in her best performance of the week to suffocate Sabalenka from the baseline. Swiatek set the tone by breaking Sabalenka in her first two service games to build a 3-1 lead.
Swiatek kept her targets big and consistently tested Sabalenka's rally tolerance. In the end, Sabalenka misfired on 16 unforced errors in the opening set, while striking just three winners. Swiatek, who kept a clean sheet with five winners to six unforced errors, pocketed the opening set in just 31 minutes.
When she takes the first set, it often spells trouble.— wta (@WTA) May 14, 2022
🇵🇱 @iga_swiatek goes 🆙 6-2.@SAPSports powers WTA statistics pic.twitter.com/nHvgDQKVIy
Swiatek jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Sabalenka snapped her run of seven games to hold. Down 4-1, Sabalenka received a medical timeout during the changeover. Swiatek held on the resumption and closed out the win by breaking Sabalenka for the sixth time on the day. Swiatek finished the match with 15 winners and 15 unforced errors. Sabalenka hit eight winners to 31 unforced errors.
"I'm pretty happy that I learned the lessons on previous matches," Swiatek said. "On previous matches, I felt like I'm kind of letting my opponents come back to the match a little bit. This time I wanted to put pressure on my opponent from the beginning till the end. I think Aryna was under pressure, so it really helped me and that was my tactics."
Swiatek is now 30-0 at WTA 1000s when she wins the first set. She is 6-1 in 2022 against Top 10 opponents, having won six straight. Her sole loss came to former No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the Adelaide semifinals.