ROME -- Yet another reason why Iga Swiatek is nearly unbeatable on clay: 

Madison Keys struck a heavy ball to her backhand side that was almost past her, when Swiatek suddenly stopped. In a split second, she reached out and flicked a lovely little drop shot that barely cleared the net and all but died in the dust. It may have looked like an accident to the untrained eye, but she clearly did it on purpose.

Keys, who thought she had won the point, responded with a shoulder shrug. Swiatek has that effect on people, especially when she’s playing on her favorite surface.

'My goodness!': Swiatek's hot shot and defense earns raves in Rome

On a steamy Tuesday at the Internazionali d’Italia, Swiatek took this quarterfinal match 6-1, 6-3 in 76 minutes. On Thursday she’ll play No.3 Coco Gauff.

With the win Swiatek will push her WTA rankings point total to at least 11,085 when the rankings are updated on Monday, equaling the highest point total or her career. She will become one of only two players to break the 11,000 point mark in the WTA Rankings, along with Serena Williams.

While Swiatek has been the recent standard in Rome and Paris, she added another title to her resume when she won recently in Madrid. That brought the possibility of achieving another rarity -- back-to-back victories in Spain and Italy. Only Serena Williams (2013) pulled that off, but it certainly seems well within her grasp.

Imagine what she could do with a week off? Oh, we’ll find out in 12 days when Roland Garros begins play.

The 22-year-old from Poland will be looking for fourth title in five years and has won 25 of 26 matches in Paris in the past four appearances. Based on her scintillating play here, that doesn’t look like a reach by any means.

Against Keys, Swiatek faced 10 break points -- and saved them all. She broke Keys’ formidable serve four times.

Swiatek has already fashioned a record of 36-4 for the year and her hold on the No.1 ranking among Hologic WTA Tour players is 3,412 points over No.2 Aryna Sabalenka.

You have to feel for Keys, who has now lost to Swiatek twice in a span of 12 days. She reached the semifinals in Madrid, falling by the identical score of 6-1, 6-3, and made the quarters in Rome. And, it should be noted, Keys saw this coming.

Chatting with reporters after defeating Sorana Cirstea in the fourth round, she talked about how her gifts for power were diminished by clay.

“It takes away from my attributes,” she explained. “Everything is dampened just a little bit. That’s the biggest thing.

“It’s not Cincinnati at 2 in the afternoon on a bouncy fast court. Sounds like a good time to me.”

Keys was laughing when she said it, but it’s true. The only time Keys has beaten Swiatek was two years ago -- on a Cincinnati hard court.

On clay, though, it’s a completely different game. Swiatek has beaten her all three times.

“She moves on it really well -- like no other player,” Keys said. “She slides so well. It’s a tough situation, because you can’t really wrong-foot her.”

The 29-year-old American missed the first two months of the year with a shoulder injury and is playing with a new, lighter racket to ease the stress on that joint. After a 3-3 start, she’s won seven of nine matches in Europe and should feel good entering Paris.

A few more bits of statistical mayhem for you numbers-crunchers out there. Swiatek is:

  • 31-4 in WTA 1000 clay court events, the best winning percentage (.889) since the format was introduced in 2009.
  • 49-4 on clay (.925) as the World No.1; only Chris Evert and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario were better.
  • 80-0 in completed WTA 1000 matches when she’s won the first set.

Swiatek is looking for her third Italian Open title in four years. She might actually be challenged because all eight quarterfinalists are ranked inside the Top 25 for the first time in Rome in two decades.