Even as she breezed past opponent after opponent while rarely coming close to dropping a set, for much of her week in Rome Iga Swiatek was not entirely satisfied with her performances. She felt her level was too up-and-down, that she was still adjusting to the clay and still had not entirely imposed herself on opponents from start to finish.
Although her standards are stratospheric, Swiatek is so good that she continues to match them. She produced another dominant performance on Sunday, dismantling Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-2 to defend her title in Rome and extend her winning run to 28 successive matches, with five titles in a row
“Today I’m going to celebrate with a lot of tiramisu, no regrets,” said Swiatek shortly afterwards. She had started the season with just three titles in her entire career, yet after four and a half months she heads to the French Open with eight and counting. She has dropped one set since March.
This was a contest between the two outstanding performers on clay this season, with Jabeur herself compiling a career-best 11 consecutive wins as she unlocked yet another historic achievement by becoming the first Arab and North African player to win a WTA 1000 title last week in Madrid.
While Jabeur has unsurprisingly been exhausted after the quick turnaround, she continually found a way through, recovering from a 1-6, 2-5 deficit against Maria Sakkari in the quarter-final and then saving a match point against Daria Kasatkina in her semi-final.
Such is Swiatek’s level, however, that her opponents must be in pristine condition and at the height of their powers just to be competitive.
Swiatek imposed herself immediately, smothering Jabeur with her ultra-aggressive return. She dominated on the baseline, obliterating forehand winners and easily dragging Jabeur off the court with angles while her defence was supreme.
When Jabeur hit a purple patch and dragged herself back into the second set, Swiatek escaped four break points at 4-2 with a string of outlandish defensive points before sauntering to victory.
Swiatek’s 28-match run began on 22 February and in the three months since the gap between herself and the field has only grown. The 2020 French Open champion will return to Paris as heavily favoured there as any women’s player has been in years.