Elina Svitolina downed a wounded Simona Halep, 6-0, 6-4, to retain her crown at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The Ukrainian required only 67 minutes to stave off the threat of Halep, who was hindered by a back problem throughout.
The triumph was the twelfth title of Svitolina’s career and her task in the final proved much more straightforward than it did last year when the Ukrainian downed Halep in three sets.
Here, she needed only 19 minutes to race through the opening set, not dropping a single game, before she broke in the third game of the second set to set her on course for back-to-back successes in the Italian capital.
“It’s amazing that I could come and defend my title here,” she beamed during her victory presentation.
“It’s really something very special for me.
“Definitely, I’m going to Roland Garros on a high note.”
Halep, who ousted the Ukrainian at the quarterfinal stage in Paris last year, will harbour similar ambitions but she will have her fingers crossed that the back problem which plagued her efforts in Rome does not flare up in Paris in the next few weeks.
She ascribed the injury to her taxing three-set win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals a day earlier and said she “could not stay in the rallies”.
“Everytime I play against Sharapova the ball comes at me so flat I bend a lot so my back gets a little bit sore,” said the world number one.
“I didn’t start the match well and she didn’t miss while I did, but then the match got a little bit better.
“It’s good that I was able to finish strong."
Her movement was inhibited throughout the final and she was as surprised as each spectator inside Court Centrale with the manner in which Svitolina took hold of the opening set.
She broke Halep’s serve to 30 to open the contest and confirmed the double break with a gorgeous backhand winner with little to no angle to work with.
Race to the finish line
She won only 13 percent of points behind her first serve and lost eight points in succession to find herself 5-0 down with Svitolina serving for the set.
The Romanian stemmed the flow with a confident hold to start set two and she briefly threatened the defending champion’s serve as they engaged in a deuce game.
However, Svitolina held and set about breaking the Halep resistance in the third game before consolidating the break of serve with a hold to love.
The world number one then left the court for a medical time out at 2-3 and bravely fought off three break points in the seventh game to remain within touching distance of her opponent.
That only served to delay the inevitable as on the second of her two match points Svitolina sealed victory and joined esteemed company in Rome.