By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Defending champion Iga Swiatek overcame a sluggish start to book her place in the last 16 of the French Open with a 7-6(4) 6-0 victory over Estonian Anna Kontaveit on Saturday.
The eighth-seeded Polish player was out of sorts as she fell 3-1 behind in the opening set, but eventually found her range to advance smoothly, making 12 unforced errors throughout and only one in the second set.
The 20-year-old Swiatek, who last year became the youngest player to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since Monica Seles in 1992, found better angles as the match went on to set up a meeting with Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.
Kostyuk, 18, has progressed without dropping a set.
Swiatek, who won the WTA 1000 event in Rome, has now won her last nine matches on clay and looks more and more like the favourite for the title after the withdrawal of world number two Naomi Osaka and world number one Ash Barty, who suffered an injury in her second-round match.
The start of her match against 30th seed Kontaveit, against whom she had lost her two previous encounters, reminded her that there would be no room for complacency.
“She was playing really fast, from the beginning, she was dominating, so I kind of had a late start today,” said Swiatek, who has now won 20 straight sets at Roland Garros.
“I’m really happy because I was losing in our head-to-head 0-2 against her, so I broke that, so I’m really happy about that.”
Beyond the match result, Swiatek was happy that she found some consistency after her 2020 breakthrough.
“I’m really happy that I’m playing consistently and I’m just trying to approach every match the same way, as I did last year,” she explained.
“I’m really happy I’m able to do that because many players struggle after coming back, after winning a Grand Slam, so I’m really happy that I’m able to handle it.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)