World No.1 Iga Swiatek started her title defense at the Italian Open with a victory over Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse here on Wednesday. In the process, Swiatek, stretched her run to 24 matches, the longest streak since Serena Williams won 27 straight matches in 2015. The 20-year-old Polish player will meet the former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in next round. Returning to action for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks, Swiatek dropped serve twice in the opening set of her first round match against Elena-Gabriela Ruse, but it didn't matter much in the end: Breaking Ruse seven times in 12 opportunities, the top seed cruised to a 6-3, 6-0 win in just 68 minutes.
"I'm pretty proud I could get into the rhythm today, just take some lessons during the match and improve my game, game by game," Swiatek said. "That was pretty solid match for me ... I think she's playing really solid tennis. I could feel that today on my racquet, that she could really give back some strong hits." Seeking a her fifth consecutive title of 2022 this week, Swiatek is also bidding to win Rome in back-to-back years. Standing between her and another quarterfinal berth is former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka, the No.16 seed, eased to a 6-2, 6-4 win over Colombia's Camila Osorio earlier in the day Wednesday.
Swiatek and Azarenka have split two previous meetings on hard courts, with Swiatek winning their quarterfinal match in Adelaide in January in three sets. "I was actually talking with my coach, what's the difference between her game on hard court and clay. For sure we're going to analyze that. Tactically I'm going to be prepared," Swiatek said. "I've never even had a chance to play a practice with her on clay, so I'm not sure how the game is going to look like ... She's such an experienced player that you have to be ready for variety. You have to be ready for facing a lot of variety in her game."