Elina Svitolina underlined her status as a top favourite for the French Open by sweeping Simona Halep aside 6-0, 6-4 to successfully defend her Italian Open crown on Sunday.
In a repeat of last year’s final at the Foro Italico, Ukrainian Svitolina, seeded fourth, was up against Halep a day after the Romanian top seed had ousted Russian Maria Sharapova.
But Halep’s hopes of overturning last year’s defeat to her 23-year-old opponent quickly evaporated in a completely one-sided encounter that saw the Romanian fail to produce a real challenge.
Svitolina, the world number four, has now successfully defended three career titles, in Baku, Dubai and also Rome; she also won in Brisbane and Dubai this season to take her 2018 title total to three.
The win also marked Svitolina’s 12th career title on what was her eighth final in succession.
“It’s amazing that I could do this here a second time and defend,” said Svitolina. “This is something very, very special.
“Congratulations to Simona, she had a great week of tennis.”
The French Open at Roland Garros starts in just over a week, and Svitolina added: “Roland Garros is still a week away, but this gives me confidence.
“I can’t make any predictions as it’s very tricky in Paris, but I’m sure I will enjoy the next tournament.”
Halep, who was broken four times and lost the opening set in 19 minutes, did not win a game until the start of the second, 24 minutes in.
The world number one saved match point before bowing out after 67 minutes.
“Congrats to Elina, she played amazing,” Halep said.
“It’s like this court is now her home. But I didn’t do so badly, reaching the final again. I hope to be back next year.
“Maybe third time is lucky for me.”
Thanks to reaching the final in Rome Halep will take the top seeding for Roland Garros.