Iga Swiatek fended off Coco Gauff in the first career meeting between the teenage WTA stars, earning a place in the Rome final.
French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat Elina Svitolina and Coco Gauff on a hectic Saturday to set up a clash with Karolina Pliskova in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final.
The Polish teenager began her day with a 6-2 7-5 morning victory over fifth seed Svitolina, twice a winner of this tournament in Rome.
It was a match that was carried over from Friday’s schedule after rain interrupted play, and Swiatek delivered a convincing performance. She said it has given her a boost of confidence.
“I felt really good today,” the 19-year-old told reporters in her Zoom press conference. “It’s a big difference between my previous matches and today. I was able to beat Elina, so that shows that my game is here, I’m ready for anyone. It gave me a real confidence boost.”
That set up the semi-final clash with Gauff, the 17-year-old American who was competing at this stage of a WTA 1000 event for the first time, having been gifted her last-four place when Ash Barty abandoned their quarter-final match due to injury on Friday.
There was no sign of fatigue from Swiatek as the 19-year-old powered to a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory in a battle of the leading teenage stars of the women’s game, who faced each for the first time in what could be a long rivalry.
— wta (@WTA) May 15, 2021
Swiatek on Gauff: Tough to face a younger star
Swiatek said that facing Gauff in her second match was tricky. She hasn’t faced many players younger than her.
“It’s always hard to play against a young superstar, especially when I’m not used to that because I was always the youngest one,” she said. “I just tried to have a high level of energy, even though it was my second match. Even though it was tiebreak in the first set, I felt like I was always the first one to break her. I was kind of mentally leading that match. I tried to play smart. I did that pretty well today so I’m happy about that.”
What’s up for grabs for @iga_swiatek if she takes the title in Rome?
— wta (@WTA) May 15, 2021
Between her two matches, Swiatek would have learned it was Pliskova waiting in the final, as the Czech ninth seed defeated Croatian Petra Martic 6-1 3-6 6-2 to keep up her remarkable record in the Italian capital.
Pliskova won the Rome title in 2019 and was runner-up to Simona Halep last year, but the 29-year-old former world number one has not been to a final since this event unusually took place in September of last year, having been delayed due to the pandemic.
Swiatek won as a major outsider at Roland Garros in October, defying her world ranking which at the time was a lowly 54th, and will face, in Pliskova, a player who has yet to win a grand slam title, a glaring absence amid an otherwise stellar career.