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SAVE A MATCH POINT | French Open: Iga Swiatek saves match point to beat Naomi Osaka

IANS | Updated on Thursday, May 30, 2024 10:07 AM IST
French Open: Iga Swiatek saves match point to beat Naomi Osaka

PARIS: World No.1 Iga Swiatek came back from 0-3 down to save a match point at 5-3 in the decider before overcoming Naomi Osaka and pulling off a great escape into the third round at the French Open here on Wednesday.

In a clash between two four-time Grand Slam winners, Swiatek, the top seed, pulled things back to 5-5 and ultimately prevailed 7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5 under the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier.

While raindrops were pelted the stadium roof, and disrupted the schedule on the outer courts, Swiatek of Poland faced some tough questions from former World No.1 Osaka, a two-time winner at both the Australian and US Open, in this early second-round test.

Though she was playing her least favourite surface and is just five months into her comeback following the birth of daughter Skai, Osaka pushed Swiatek, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, to the absolute limit.

In a tense and thrilling match that had the look and feel of a championship final, Osaka was her vintage self. Despite being ranked No.134 in the latest WTA rankings, the Japanese star played like it was 2019, the year she won her first Grand Slam in Australia, achieved the World No.1 ranking and also won the WTA Tour Finals.

However, in the end, Swiatek tapped into her energy reserves and fought back bravely to emerge victorious.

This was Swiatek’s 16th consecutive win at Roland Garros, the most since Justine Henin won 24 straight between 2005-10. This was also Swiatek’s 14th straight win this year.

Osaka actually won more points, had 17 more winners and more service breaks -- but Swiatek was better when it mattered.

After splitting the first two sets, Osaka faced three break points in her opening service game -- and saved them all. She then broke Swiatek with a backhand crosscourt winner to go 2-0 up. In Osaka’s second service game, she saved five more break points, before Swiatek’s forehand return found the net.

Now Osaka led 3-0 and went on to serve for the match at 5-3.

But at 30-all, she smashed a forehand into the net followed by a backhand that flew long. On Swiatek’s second break point, Osaka hit what looked like a makeable backhand just long and the match was back on serve.

In the end, Osaka just could not close the deal. There were some tired-looking forehands and, with Osaka serving at 5-all, a double fault that gave Swiatek a pivotal 6-5 advantage.

Leading 30-15, Swiatek hit a screaming backhand crosscourt winner to go up 40-15. One more errant backhand from Osaka gave her the match.

Gauff ousts Zidansek

No.3 seed Coco Gauff edged former Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek 6-3, 6-4 to move through to the third round. The American needed 1 hour and 31 minutes to edge the Slovenian, once ranked World No.22 but a qualifier in Paris this year, and bounced back to ease to victory after trailing 3-1 in the first set.

Gauff double-faulted twice in the opening game of the match en route to losing serve. But those were her only double faults of the first set. The World No.3 also trailed 2-1 in the second set after Zidansek broke back and held after losing the opening game -- and also saw a 4-2 lead evaporate to 4-4. But after a break to 15, her third of the match, Gauff held her serve from 15-30 down and sailed safely into the Round of 32.