Tennis: Swiatek battles Putintseva into Rome last 16

AFP , Saturday 11 May 2024

Iga Swiatek fought past Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last 16 of the Rome Open on Saturday.

Poland's Iga Swiatek returns to Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva during the Women's WTA Rome Open tennis tournament at Foro Italico in Rome on May 11, 2024. Photo: AFP


World number one Swiatek will next face either Angelique Kerber or Aliaksandra Sasnovich as she bids to become the first person since Serena Williams to claim a third title at the Foro Italico.

Swiatek won the 2021 and 2022 editions before exiting a year ago in the quarter-finals to eventual champion Elena Rybakina, who withdrew with illness on Friday.

The 22-year-old came into the event having won the Madrid Open last weekend and will also be gunning for a fourth French Open crown later this month.

She made harder work than expected of Saturday's match after comfortably taking the first set, finding herself 4-1 down and having to save four break points to stop unseeded Puntintseva from serving for the second.

However Swiatek broke back before levelling the set and rattled off five games in a row to take her record against Puntintseva to four wins without dropping a set.

Swiatek is one of a host of stars to grace a baking centre court on Saturday, as she will be followed by Rafael Nadal who continues his comeback in a second-round clash with seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Nadal has said that he will only play at the French Open, where he has won 14 times, if he feels competitive after a raft of injury problems over the last two years which have left him languishing 305th in the world rankings.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev kicks off his title defence against Briton Jack Draper before women's third seed Coco Gauff takes on lucky loser Jaqueline Cristian.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Noami Osaka has a third-round clash with 10th-seed Daria Kasatkina in the Grand Stand Arena.

Osaka is ranked at 173 in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child but has looked in good form in straight-set wins over Clara Burel and Marta Kostyuk.

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