No. 1 Iga Swiatek tested but reached fourth round in Rome

No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek moved to the fourth round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome on Saturday, but she also took a step toward a rare milestone.

Swiatek defeated Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday to advance. Should she win the tournament, she would become just the third woman to record wins in Madrid and Rome in the same calendar year – key tune-ups for the French Open. Action begins at Roland Garros in Paris on May 26.

The only other women to accomplish the feat were Russia’s Dinara Safina in 2009 and Serena Williams in 2013.

The achievement seemingly isn’t weighing on Swiatek’s mind.

“Winning next match is on my radar,” Swiatek said Saturday. “As usual, taking everything step-by-step is the best way to go. There’s still a long way.”

The one-hour, 46-minute match wasn’t necessarily easy, either. Swiatek had to fight back when Putintseva took a 4-1 lead in the second set and had four break opportunities to go up 5-1.

But Swiatek held serve, then broke her opponent two consecutive times to go up 5-4 and walk to victory.

“She’s tough opponent because she’s changing the rhythm a lot,” Swiatek said after the match.

“I just wanted to stick to my ‘solid game’ and balance the risk,” she continued. “And also know that there’s no point sometimes to play too hard, because she’s going to use your power anyway. I think I can do that well. I’ve done that before when I played against her. Today, as well.”

Naomi Osaka of Japan, who took last year off for her pregnancy, continued to make noise in her return, defeating 10th seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-3. Osaka tallied five aces and converted five of 12 break chances.

Never known as a clay court player, Osaka was pleased with her performance on the surface, even if its given folks on social media an inspiration for a nickname – Clayomi.

“Please don’t,” Osaka said of the nickname. “Please. I think I need more clay credentials for that. But I’m happy that they’re happy.”

Also moving on was seventh seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who beat Czech Linda Noskova, the 29th seed, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Zheng will meet Osaka in the fourth round.

Swiatek’s next opponent will be Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who defeated Russian Aliaksandra Sasnovoch 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Also moving on was Paula Badosa of Spain, who topped Diana Shnaider of Russia 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

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