Iga Swiatek’s 6-2, 6-2 win over Ons Jabeur in the finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia demonstrated a longstanding premise familiar to boxing aficionados: everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

This matchup revealed two approaches to tactics: doubt and certainty. Jabeur owned the former. Long valued as a player of considerable breadth, over the last year, the 27-year-old Tunisian has also proven increasingly sustainable, Jabeur’s race up the ranks highlighted by a title run last week in Madrid and now this trip to the finals in Rome. Jabeur is exquisite at keeping opponents off-balance, most notably with a drop shot she can hit off both sides from anywhere on the court. It’s a disruptive tactic par excellence, accompanied by keen precision off the ground, efficient volley skills and the biggest appetite for innovation in tennis. “My game, I see it more fun, like more different from other players,” Jabeur said following today’s match. “I don't see it the physical way. I actually see it more physical for the other players, not me.”

On the other hand, versus Swiatek, you’ll know what’s coming, but can you handle it? Swiatek’s ability to blend pace and margin, spin and precision, movement sideways and forward, allow her to smother opponents. Against such withering drives, anyone who plays Swiatek will cover tremendous distance and know that their technique will be severely tested.

In the face of Swiatek’s ceaseless power, depth and accuracy, Jabeur was repeatedly rocked back on her heels and unable to establish any semblance of a tactical array. Compounding the problem was Swiatek’s topspin forehand, jumping so high on the clay that Jabeur’s contact point was frequently compromised. “Her ball is much different from other players,” said Jabeur. Amid all this, from Jabeur’s end, the court resembled a hill. How could she generate any kind of traction?

Most debilitating for Jabeur was that, time and time again, anticipation and speed allowed Swiatek to track down many a drop shot and reply not merely with a scrambling poke down the line or crosscourt angle, but instead with a sharply whipped drive.

Two representative moments came in the first set. Serving at 4-2, Swiatek had fought back from love-30 and held an ad point. Dashing forward for a Jabeur drop shot, Swiatek crushed a forehand crosscourt pass. And even though Jabeur anticipated where the ball was going, Swiatek’s shot was so hard that Jabeur’s racquet seemed to wobble, resulting in a netted forehand volley. In the next game, Swiatek again sprinted forward to cover a drop shot, this time driving her backhand crosscourt so hard that Jabeur’s racquet flew out of her hand -- yet another punch in the mouth. After winning the first set in 37 minutes, Swiatek fought off a break point to start the second and soon broke Jabeur twice to go up 4-0.

But besides being tactically nimble, Jabeur is quite tenacious and, at this late stage of the match, began to dial herself in for one last push. Or was it that at this point, Swiatek got tight? As is usually the case, the answer was a combination of both, each player attuned to the other’s energy. While Swiatek was naturally eager to finish and occupy the future, Jabeur was keen simply to compete, purely in the present. Recall that in the quarters, versus Maria Sakkari, Jabeur had rallied from a set and 5-2 down; and in the semis, against Daria Kasatkina, she’d fought off a match point.

Jabeur broke for 1-4 and held at love. With Swiatek serving at 4-2, love-30, Jabeur hit a sublime crosscourt forehand drop shot to win her eighth straight point. After being down so long, could Jabeur get back on serve? But here it was Swiatek’s turn for shot-making – a forehand swing volley winner, a cat-and-mouse rally closed out with an untouchable down-the-line backhand, another similar placement from deep in the court. Swiatek would also fight off one more break point with a backhand drop volley winner and eventually win that seventh game to go up 5-2. Said Swiatek, “Coming back from this love-40 game in second set was, like, emotionally also tough. It was hard for me to, like, switch the modes to be more focused and play the same kind of tennis I played before."

“The 4-2 game was I think the game of the match, to be honest with you,” said Jabeur. “I felt like I was trying my best to make her visit all the corners of the court, but she was already ready for that.” No doubt frustrated at seeing her momentum halted, Jabeur in the next game netted a pair of backhands at 30-all. “I just felt huge relief,” said Swiatek. “It's also not easy to play against Ons. I felt like every game was really tight.”

This marked the first time Swiatek had successfully defended a title. It was also her 28th consecutive match win and fifth tournament victory of the year. “At the beginning of the tournament, I didn't know it would be possible to keep up the streak and with all the wins,” said Swiatek. “I'm pretty happy I did it really step by step and I just focused on the right things because I think it led to all the success this week.”