Iga Swiatek started her bid to win her third straight Italian Open title in perfect fashion on Friday, not dropping a game in her straight-sets thrashing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
World number one Swiatek looked in exceptional form as she demolished Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-0 in just over an hour to ease her way into the third round in Rome.
Losing finalist in Madrid last weekend, Swiatek looked in great form in the tournament she won last year before going on to blitz the French Open even though she is still shaking off a rib injury suffered at Indian Wells.
“I still may feel some discomfort, but it is really, really low. Even when I withdrew from Miami, the pain was low. It was just the risk of getting it worse that stopped me,” Swiatek told reporters.
“I wouldn’t say my physicality is stopping me. I came back quickly and I kind of missed only one tournament. I think overall it’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek now faces either Bernarda Pera or Lesia Tsurenko in the last 32 after extending her winning streak in the Italian capital to 12 matches.
The only real resistance from Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the final of Roland Garros two years ago, came in the final game of the first set, when she saved six set points from 0-40 down on her serve.
Swiatek eventually came through that game and swept Pavlyuchenkova aside in the second set, finishing the job against the serve with her first match point.
Fourth seed Ons Jabeur fell 6-1, 6-4 to Paula Badosa, last year’s finalist being eliminated in her first match to leave the women’s tournament without another big name.
Jabeur joins world number two Aryna Sabalenka, third-ranked Jessica Pegula and 2019 winner Karolina Pliskova in being dumped out in the second round.
The 28-year-old has had calf problems in recent weeks, an injury which caused her to retire in the semi-finals at Stuttgart and not defend her Madrid title.
Badosa will face world number 27 Marta Kostyuk in the third round.
– Sinner winner –
Earlier, Jannick Sinner cruised into the men’s last 32 with a straight-sets win over Thanasi Kokkinakis, 6-1, 6-4.
World number eight Sinner took one hour, 18 minutes to deal with Australian qualifier Kokkinakis, and will now play Russian Alexander Shevchenko, who beat Argentinian Sebastian Baez 6-3, 6-4.
“I’m happy with my level today, it was not easy, it was a little bit breezy, a bit windy,” Sinner said on court.
“Especially in the second set he played a little bit better. I also had a couple of chances which I didn’t use but very happy about how I served, I struck the ball very well.”
Sinner, 21, did not drop a single point on his serve in a dominant first set in which the gulf in class between the Italian and Kokkinakis was painfully evident.
Kokkinakis, ranked 104 in the world, put up more of a fight in the second set but once Sinner broke in the seventh game to take the score to 4-3, it was only a matter of time before the deal was sealed.
Sinner made no mistake, serving to love in games eight and nine to ensure comfortable passage to the next round.
Rome has not seen an Italian winner of the tournament since Adriano Panatta in 1976.
With local boy Matteo Berrettini out of action again with abdominal problems, Sinner will be getting the bulk of the capital city’s support.
Sinner has had a decent season, winning in Montpellier in February and losing the finals in Miami and Rotterdam to Daniil Medvedev.
He also reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells, losing to eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz.
Cameron Norrie strolled past French qualifier Alexandre Muller 6-2, 6-3 to set up a clash with Marton Fucsovics in the next round after the Hungarian beat Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4.