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Swiatek into Rome Open final as trophy record beckons, Paul battles through

American Tommy Paul upset <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/poland/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Poland;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Poland</a>'s Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first semi-final on clay in Rome (Tiziana FABI)
American Tommy Paul upset Poland's Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first semi-final on clay in Rome (Tiziana FABI)

Iga Swiatek won her 11th straight clay-court match on Thursday as the top seed moved closer to another record with a 6-4, 6-3 semi-final defeat of Coco Gauff at the Rome Open, after Tommy Paul earlier survived a chaotic ending to emerge victorious from his quarter-final encounter with Hubert Hurkacz.

World number one Swiatek now stands one victory away from duplicating the Madrid-Rome clay trophy double achieved by Serena Williams 11 years ago.

The 22-year-old Pole defeated third-seed Gauff for the 10th time in their 11 encounters, with her only loss in the series coming last summer in a Cincinnati semi-final.

Swiatek, a four-time Grand Slam winner due to defend her Roland Garros title starting a week from Sunday, will play the Saturday Rome final against either second-seed Aryna Sabalenka or American Danielle Collins.

The top seed spent one and three-quarter hours in dispatching Gauff, the reigning US Open champion.

Swiatek ended with 26 winners and broke four times.

"I'm not thinking about statistics or history," she said after the victory. "I'm just playing day by day.

"It's easier that way, it lets you play more freely.

"I'll just try to play as good as possible in the final, no matter who it is.

"I won't be thinking of any records, there is still work to do."

- Breaks aplenty -

On the men's side, American Paul reached a clay court semi-final for the first time in his career with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 upset of Hurkacz.

The 14th seed is the first American to reach the final four at the Foro Italico since Reilly Opelka in 2021.

The momentum-shifting quarter-final came down to the wire, with a 15-minute final game capping off nearly two and three-quarter hours on court.

Paul finally came through on his fourth match point as Poland's Hurkacz sent a return long.

The match featured 13 breaks of serve, with Paul advancing with 29 winners and 41 unforced errors; and Hurkacz having 22 and 44 respectively.

"I started well but it got away from me in the second and start of the third," Paul said. "I had to stick around in the match.

"I found the energy to get it going again. I was hitting my forehand bigger and with more intensity because Hubii can really crush the ball."

Paul will wait for an opponent from sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Chile's Nicolas Jarry.

Hurkacz, who knocked Rafa Nadal out in the Rome second round, was unable to get his massive serve up to speed as he faced Paul, winner over defending champion Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round.

Hurkacz won the clay title in Estoril last month and suffered only his third loss on clay this spring.

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