Iga Swiatek stumbles over Rafael Nadal quiz, Casper Ruud wants Carlos Alcaraz revenge - Italian Open Diary
Iga Swiatek is a big fan of Rafael Nadal but saw her knowledge of her idol put to the test. Elsewhere, Stefanos Tsitsipas talks points targets, Coco Gauff discusses what she loves about Rome away from the court and Casper Ruud heaps praise on Carlos Alcaraz but is eyeing a win over the Spaniard in their next meeting. Reem Abulleil brings us the latest stories from the Italian Open.
Iga Swiatek of Poland talks to the media after defeating Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania in her second round match during Day 4 of the Internazionali BNL D'Italia at Foro Italico on May 11, 2022 in Rome, Italy (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)
“I've been watching Iga (Swiatek) play, so I'm sure that's going to be pretty tough because she also likes to change the rhythm, she's a very strong fighter. If I can play her sometime soon, that would be great,” responded the Canadian.
Less than 24 hours later, both Andreescu and Swiatek won their respective matches in Rome to set up a highly-anticipated quarter-final, which will be their first meeting on the women’s tour.
Andreescu, 21, and Swiatek, 20, faced off once in singles in juniors, and it was the latter who came out on top in three close sets.
There was a fun exchange between the duo on Wednesday as Swiatek had to walk through the interview room while Andreescu was conducting her press conference.
“Get outta here. You had your moment, c'mon,” laughed Andreescu as Swiatek passed through.
There is a lot of mutual respect shared between the pair and Friday will probably be the first of many showdowns between them on tour.
Stefanos Tsitsipas leads the ATP tour with 29 match-wins this season and has enjoyed a strong clay-court campaign so far, successfully defending his Monte Carlo title before making the quarters in Barcelona, the semis in Madrid and now the last-eight in Rome.
It all bodes well for the fast-approaching Roland Garros, where he reached the final last year.
When I asked the Greek world No. 5 if he was feeling confident heading to Paris, Tsitsipas explained he doesn’t worry too much about defending points, but rather on the adding points to his year-to-date tally, which is reflected in the ATP Race and not the regular rankings.
Tsitsipas actually has a monthly points target throughout the season, which is something I’ve never heard a player set as a goal before.
“I’m focusing on Rome right now. Roland Garros is one tournament of the year that I get to play. I don’t really following the rankings, I follow the Race rankings, for me that’s the most important,” Tsitsipas told me.
“As long as I can produce and create points that can put me up in the race to Turin, I’m happy with that.
“I really want to pull the trigger on many occasions and most of my matches and go for it, whether that happens at Roland Garros or Wimbledon or the US Open, I just want to score as many points, score as many points as possible.
“My goal is to get 1,000 to 1,200 points per month; would be great. The rest is just my tennis; I need to focus on that.”
‘Watch out for the snake ball’
Coco Gauff would like to think that she is her younger brother Codey’s favourite player. A close second, apparently, is Tunisian Ons Jabeur.
“I think Ons Jabeur, I hope outside of me, is his favourite player. He plays baseball, doesn't play tennis. He calls himself the ‘Black Ons Jabeur’,” Gauff said of her 14-year-old brother.
“He doesn't play tennis, but when he does, he always goes for drop shots. He calls it the 'snake ball'. When I played her a couple times, ‘You got to watch out for that snake ball’.
“He loves watching Ons play.”
Gauff and Jabeur were on collision course to square off in the quarter-finals but the American teen fell to Maria Sakkari in straight sets on Thursday. Sakkari better watch out for that ‘snake ball’.
Coco Gauff celebrates during the Internazionali BNL D'Italia 2022 match between Maria Sakkari and Coco Gauff - Day Five on May 12, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Image credit: Getty Images
Young and wise
Gauff says her favourite thing to do in Rome is “definitely eating”. She was asked by an Italian journalist if she has any favourite fashion designers and if she’ll go shopping during her week in Rome.
“I would say my favourite designer brand is Louis Vuitton. I like big brands, but I hate spending money,” confessed the 18-year-old.
“It's a once-in-a-while thing. If I do well in a tournament, I say, ‘Okay, I'm going to buy myself something nice’.
“I like to buy things for other people, my mom, my family. I like to spoil them a little bit. For myself, when I like it, I look at the price, ‘Am I really going to wear this the amount of times worth this amount of money?’
“Most of the times the answer is no. I do have a couple of things in my closest that were a lot of money, but I'm glad that I bought it.”
Who is the Rafa trivia master?
In a video that pits Sebastian Korda against Iga Swiatek in a quiz on all things Rafael Nadal, Korda edged the world No. 1 by just one point.
Swiatek is a long-time fan of the Spanish 21-time major champion, while Korda has a pet cat named Rafa.
Nadal and Swiatek have had numerous exchanges over the past couple of years, including a quick practice session at Roland Garros 12 months ago, and on Wednesday, the Mallorcan spoke about the incredible four-title winning streak Swiatek is currently riding.
“She's doing amazing things, no? Playing amazing and winning every single event she played, I think last four in a row. Winning Indian Wells and Miami in a row, something difficult,” said Nadal.
“Just happy for her. She's very spontaneous and natural girl. Is good to have good people like her having success.”
Swiatek was not too happy with her performance in the Nadal quiz.
“If you would ask the same questions about Sandra Bullock or Taylor Swift, I would answer much better,” the 20-year-old Pole said.
‘Alcaraz is a rare talent’
World No. 10 Casper Ruud was asked on Thursday if he was “worried” about the meteoric rise of Carlos Alcaraz, who defeated the Norwegian in the Miami final a few weeks ago.
“I'm not going to say that I'm worried by Alcaraz because I think we should all just appreciate how good he is. He is a rare talent that we have all been talking about for already some time now, and he's still so young,” said Ruud of the Spanish teenager.
“He's been one of the best players of the world this year. Let's see if he can keep it going.
“Everything is also new for him. I guess at some point everyone will face challenges in their career. It will be interesting to see how it goes for the rest of the year because the pressure will be different for him now, people will know him a little bit more.
“It's motivating to see that a young player can do big results like this. Of course, I lost to him two times. I wish to have my revenge someday. Hopefully we can play more big matches.
“My biggest match of my career I played against him, he was able to win. Like I said, I hope I can have my revenge someday.”
- Swiatek extended her winning streak to 25 consecutive matches, thanks to her hard-fought success over Victoria Azarenka on Thursday. It is the seventh-longest unbeaten run on the women’s tour since the year 20002, and the longest since Serena Williams won 27 straight in 2015.
- Ons Jabeur extended her career-best winning streak to nine consecutive matches, backing up her Madrid title with a run to the quarter-finals in Rome this week. She faces Sakkari on Friday for a place in the last four.
- Cristian Garin and Marin Cilic hit a combined 80 unforced errors in their three-hour three-set tussle, which the former won 6-3 4-6 6-4.
- Following his last-16 success over Stan Wawrinka on Thursday, Novak Djokovic is two victories away from joining the 1,000 match-wins club.
- Djokovic has maintained his record of making at least the quarter-finals in every Rome appearance. He is through to his 16th quarter-final at the Foro Italico, from as many participations.
- Alexander Zverev’s triumph over Alex de Minaur in the Rome last-16 stage on Thursday was the German’s 100th Masters 1000 victory.