ROME — Top-ranked Iga Swiatek was tested before pulling out a 6-4, 6-1 victory over former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka to reach the Italian Open quarterfinals on Thursday and extend her winning streak to 25 matches.
Azarenka took a 3-0 lead before Swiatek won five straight games in a grueling first set that lasted 1 hour, 20 minutes.
“My first serve wasn’t working properly,” Swiatek said “But I’m happy that I could kind of win ugly in the first set, then improve in the second. It gives me confidence that even when my game is not 100% good, I can still win matches.”
The defending champion in Rome, Swiatek is attempting to win her fifth straight tournament.
The last player to win more consecutive matches was Serena Williams, who had a streak of 27 in a row over 2014 and 2015.
“(The streak) doesn’t really matter for me because every match is different,” Swiatek said. “In many matches, I struggled this season, even though I won them. Anything can happen. Every match is a different story.”
Swiatek’s run makes her a favorite to win a second French Open when the year’s second Grand Slam gets underway in 10 days. When Swiatek won at Roland Garros in 2020 she was ranked No. 54 — making her the lowest-ranked woman to win the Paris major in the Open era.
In a sign of how challenging it was for Swiatek to hold serve on the red clay court at the Foro Italico, she played more than twice as many points on her serve than Azarenka did — 98 to 47.
Azarenka was rattled when a spectator entered the front row of the mostly empty VIP section just behind her as she was facing a break point late in the first set. When she then double-faulted to hand Swiatek control of the set, she slammed her racket in frustration and complained to the chair umpire about the mid-game interruption.
Swiatek will next face 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who eliminated Croatian qualifier Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4.
The only previous meeting in singles between Swiatek and Andreescu came in a 2016 junior Fed Cup match between Poland and Canada, which Swiatek won in three sets.
“It was kind of a breakthrough match for me,” Swiatek said. “It was the first match I actually felt that I can do it and I can win with anybody, because she was also playing really solid game at that time.”
In other matches, third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka beat Madrid Open finalist Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-4 and will next play Amanda Anisimova, who eliminated Danielle Collins 6-2, 6-2.