It’s been so long since Iga Świątek, the number one in the rankings, lost 31 tennis matches now – and even since she gave up so much as a set, which last happened more than a month ago, that she could be forgiven if she couldn’t remember how to react to problems on a tennis court.
That’s why it was worth watching as the 2020 French Open champion navigated some tricky spots in the third round at Roland Garros on Saturday.
Świątek didn’t panic and let thoughts at the end of this dominant run distract her in what would become a 6-3, 7-5 win against the hard hitting Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.
“The thoughts are there, but I accept that.”
Kovinic got a too close-for-comfort look at Świątek’s predecessor at the top of the WTA ranking, the since-retired Ash Barty, during her 6-0, 6-0 loss at the Australian Open in January.
After Saturday’s setback, Kovinic said she suffered from a nerve problem in her right shoulder and felt tingling in that arm and two of her fingers. She also said she made sure Świątek got a message when they shook hands at the net.
‘She has something special. I don’t know what it is.’
Two qualities stood out in Świątek’s win over Kovinic: the ability to stay in the moment and the willingness to think outside the box.
Early on, when a 3-0 lead narrowed to 4-3, Świątek picked up eight consecutive runs to take that set.
In the second, she dropped four consecutive games and trailed 5-4.
Świątek then adapted to Kovinic’s style by using cunning rather than trying to combine power with power, stripping out the last three games to get the job done.
“Certainly,” said Swiątek, “[I] played a little smarter.”
Her next opponent is Zheng Qinwen, a 19-year-old from China who is in 74th place and is participating in her second grand slam tournament.
“I really want to play against her,” said Zheng, who was leading 6-0, 3-0 when Alize Cornet stopped playing due to an injured left leg.
Other women’s fourth-rounders include:
- Jessica Pegula vs. Irina-Camelia Begu, who was fined $10,000 after throwing her racket and bouncing it off the stands and brushing a child in the stands earlier in the week
- Daria Kasatkina Camila Giorgic
- Madison Keys vs. Veronica Kudermetova.
Pegula (11th) — whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabers — and Świątek are the only two of the top 15 remaining in the women’s draw.
“She’s reached a different level right now than all of us. Yeah, it’s a little scary,” said Pegula, who needed 10 match points to complete her first-round win, and another eight in her next match. , but sealed Saturday’s. 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) win over 2021 semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek on her first chance.
One more win each and Świątek becomes Pegula’s problem in the quarterfinals.
“Her athletic ability and defensive skills are really, really good,” said Pegula. “And then, I think, she’s gotten a lot more offensive this year. She’s been more aggressive when necessary.’
Świątek has won her last four tournaments and 48 of her last 49 sets, the exception being against Liudmila Samsonova in the semi-final in Stuttgart on April 23.
The last match wiątek lost was against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, on February 16 in the round of 16 in Dubai.
She won a total of 15 sets this season, 6-0, but Świątek showed on Saturday that she can handle it when things get tight.