ROME • Elina Svitolina underlined her status as a favourite for the French Open title by sweeping world No. 1 Simona Halep aside 6-0, 6-4 to retain her Italian Open crown yesterday.
In a repeat of last year's final at the Foro Italico, the Ukrainian, seeded fourth, faced Halep a day after the top seed had ousted Russian Maria Sharapova in a tough three-set affair.
But Halep's hopes of avenging last year's defeat by her 23-year-old opponent quickly evaporated in a completely one-sided encounter that saw the Romanian fail to produce a real challenge.
World No. 4 Svitolina 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. She has emerged victorious in her last eight final appearances.
"It's amazing that I could do this here a second time and defend," said Svitolina, who improved to 4-2 in her career meetings against Halep. "This is something very, very special.
Titles Elina Svitolina has won this year in Brisbane, Dubai and Rome.
"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."
Of all the Grand Slam tournaments, Svitolina has enjoyed the most success at the French Open, reaching the quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017.
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 top-ranked player took a medical time out in the second set for an apparent back problem and saved match point before bowing out after 67 minutes.
"Congrats to Elina, she played amazing," Halep said after failing to create a break-point opportunity in the whole match and hitting 21 unforced errors.
"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."
By reaching the final in Rome, Halep will take the top seeding for Roland Garros.
She reached the French Open final last year and in 2014.