The week in tennis: Swiatek, Zverev win big, Nadal's farewell continues

Aryna Sabalenka (left) and Iga Swiatek after the final in Rome. Antonietta Baldassarre/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Another clay tournament, another title for Iga Swiatek.

The world No. 1 and three-time French Open champion followed up her win at 1000-level Madrid earlier this month by nabbing the trophy at Rome -- another 1000-level event -- on Saturday. And while Swiatek was pushed to three sets during two matches during her run in Madrid -- including during an epic final against No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka -- she had no such challenges in Rome.

The 22-year-old rolled to the final, never losing a set or giving up more than eight total games in a match, and recorded a 6-4, 6-3 win over Coco Gauff in the semifinals. During Saturday's championship match, Swiatek faced Sabalenka yet again but this meeting was far more one-sided.

Swiatek needed just under 90 minutes for the 6-2, 6-3 victory and to earn her third title in Rome. And in doing so, she became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 (and just the third woman ever) to win the "Dirt Double" of Madrid and Rome. She also cemented her status as the Queen of Clay and the overwhelming favorite for the title at Roland Garros.

Even Sabalenka couldn't help but acknowledge Swiatek's dominance on the clay and at the upcoming major during her on-court speech in Rome.

"I hope we're going to make it to the final in Roland Garros, and I'm going to get you there," Sabalenka said to Swiatek. "Just kidding. I'm just going to try to do better than today."

The increasingly confident Swiatek responded in her own speech moments later, "We'll see about that Roland Garros final."

Here's what else you might have missed from Rome and around the tennis world last week:

Sabalenka still wins (sort of)

Sure, Sabalenka lost to Swiatek on Saturday for the second straight final and fell to 3-8 all-time against her rival, but she still managed to have the funniest -- and most viral -- moment of the match.

During her runner-up speech, Sabalenka hilariously thanked her team for "helping me lose another final." As the crowd -- and her good-natured team -- laughed, Sabalenka added, "That's all your fault, guys."

Considering she had an impressive tournament overall -- with victories over Elina Svitolina, Jelena Ostapenko and the red-hot Danielle Collins in the semifinals -- there was clearly still plenty to smile and joke about.

Zverev's big win

On the men's side, Alexander Zverev earned the biggest title of his career since injuring his ankle at the French Open in 2022. Behind a dominant serving performance, Zverev defeated Nicolas Jarry, 6-4, 7-5, on Sunday and took home his 22nd career ATP title, and sixth at the Masters-1000 level.

The 27-year-old Zverev started the match with three straight aces and then won 20 of his 21 service points in the first set (and 44 of 49 service points total). As it was his first Masters title since 2021, Zverev was emotional at the match's conclusion and during the trophy ceremony.

"The last two years have been extremely difficult," Zverev said. "I didn't know whether I was ever going to be on this stage -- regardless of winning or losing -- so this moment is extremely special."

Zverev is now back up to No. 4 in the rankings and will look to build on his momentum at Roland Garros. His trial in Germany related to allegations of domestic abuse is also set to begin during the tournament, but he is not required to be in attendance.

All the feels

Much like Sabalenka, Jarry was the unlucky one during his respective final, but he too found a way to steal the show during the trophy ceremony. While addressing the crowd, which included his wife and two young children, Jarry found himself unable to continue speaking as he looked to be fighting back tears. During his unexpected pause, the fans in the stands -- some waving Chilean flags in his honor -- began singing "Ole, Ole, Ole, Nico, Nico" to show their support.

Clearly moved by the gesture, Jarry appeared to wipe tears away from his eyes with his shirt and then managed to continue his speech.

Sunday's final was Jarry's first-ever at a Masters event. He defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals and Tommy Paul in the semifinals and is now at a career-high ranking of No. 16.

Forza Italia

Twelve years after winning the Italian Open doubles title with Roberta Vinci in front of a thrilled home crowd, Sara Errani found magic yet again and won the title alongside Jasmine Paolini, another fellow countrywoman.

The unseeded duo was on the brink of elimination in its opening-round match but the two fought back and continued to win throughout the tournament. On Sunday, against first-time partners Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe, Errani and Paolini needed a tiebreak to secure the win 6-3, 4-6 [10-8], after Gauff double-faulted on championship point.

"Winning here, it's crazy," Errani said after the match. "We were like 7-5, 4-0 down in the first round. Winning the tournament is incredible. I'm so happy and really proud of us."

The pair said they will be playing together at Roland Garros and at the Olympics later in the summer.

Top-seeded team Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos won the men's doubles title on Saturday, defeating Mate Pavic and Marcelo Arevalo 6-2, 6-2.

Even more emotions!

After making his return to competition last month, Rafael Nadal's presumed farewell season continued in Rome. After reaching the fourth round in Madrid, Nadal was not as successful in Rome, falling to Hubert Hurkacz 6-1, 6-3, in the second round.

However, as has become expected at this point, Nadal -- a 10-time champion at the event -- was still given a hero's goodbye following his defeat. After the match, thousands and thousands of fans gave him the ultimate standing ovation as he walked above them on an elevated bridge.

But, Nadal being Nadal, the support was not enough to improve his spirits after such a lopsided loss. It was his worst defeat on clay since he was a 16-year-old in 2003 and he couldn't hide his disappointment.

"Tough day for me in all ways because I felt more ready than what I showed," Nadal told reporters. "I am [a] little bit more unpredictable today, not playing enough for the last two years. Too many doubts."

Nadal, who missed almost the entirety of the 2023 season with a hip injury, then said he was unsure if he would be able to play at the French Open. But the 14-time champion said he was going to do everything he could to try to play one last time.

"Let's see what's going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow and in one week," Nadal said. "If I feel ready, I [am] going to try to be there and fight for the things that I have been fighting the last 15 years, if now seems impossible."

And in good news for Nadal and his fans, he was seen on the grounds at Roland Garros on Monday and even had his first official practice on site.

Djokovic's change of plans

It hasn't exactly been the season Novak Djokovic has been hoping for. His bid to defend his Australian Open title was spoiled by Jannik Sinner in the semifinals and he's yet to win a title -- or even play in a final -- this year. In Rome, he was inadvertently struck in the head with a fan's water bottle after his opening match and then was stunned by Alejandro Tabilo, 6-2, 6-3, in the Round of 32 two days later.

So now, instead of heading to Paris several days ahead of the French Open to prepare to defend his title, Djokovic accepted a last-minute wild card to play at the 250-level Geneva Open. Likely looking for some more match time on clay ahead of the Slam, the 24-time major champion has a first-round bye and will open play on Wednesday.

When asked what he needed to improve upon before Roland Garros following his loss to Tabilo, Djokovic was candid in his response: "Well, everything. Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win."

Will this unexpected change of strategy be what gets him there and puts his season back on track? Stay tuned.

Kontaveit's new addition

Former world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit, who retired from tennis following Wimbledon last season, announced she is expecting a baby with boyfriend Brent Lepistu. The pair shared the news with a series of glamourous and ultra-chic photos on Instagram on Friday.

"New family member on the way," the 28-year-old Kontaveit wrote.

And, as one might expect considering Kontaveit's popularity on tour, there were countless supportive comments on the post from Kontaveit's former co-workers including Sabalenka, Ons Jabeur, Sloane Stephens, Jessica Pegula, Jenny Brady and moms Taylor Townsend and Belinda Bencic. Jabeur wrote, "Auntie Ons is ready," alongside several emojis, and Townsend hilariously added: "Congratulations, weewww this is gonna be one good looking kid."