Swiatek survives almighty scare to pip Osaka in French Open thriller

American Coco Gauff rolled past Slovenian Tamara Zidansek 6-3 6-4 in the second round of Roland Garros

By Reuters

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Iga Swiatek serves to Naomi Osaka during their singles match on Wednesday. — AFP
Iga Swiatek serves to Naomi Osaka during their singles match on Wednesday. — AFP

Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 11:30 PM

Defending champion Iga Swiatek came back from the brink to down Naomi Osaka in a French Open second-round blockbuster, saving a match point as she just avoided her earliest exit at Roland Garros, where the wild crowd came under fire on Wednesday.

With fans starved of action on a day when persistent rainfall washed out play on the outside courts, the two four-time Grand Slam champions served up a memorable battle on court Philippe Chatrier, even if hundreds of ticket holders had already returned to the warmth of their homes.

"This match was really intense, much more than I would have expected for a second round. I'll be more ready next time. Naomi played some amazing tennis with a loose hand," said Swiatek, the winner here in 2020, 2022 and 2023, after her 7-6(1) 1-6 7-5 victory.

Swiatek saved a set point before forcing a tiebreak that she won comfortably, but Osaka, back at the French Open for the first time since 2022 after a maternity break, went all in.

Peppering the court with jaw-dropping winners, the 26-year-old blazed through the second set and showed no signs of slowing down in the decider, until she cracked under pressure.

Leading 5-2, she lost all the remaining games as winners turned into sometimes ugly unforced errors.

Serving for the match at 5-3, Osaka netted a routine forehand and she buried another one on match point.

Naomi Osaka reacts after winning a point. — AFP
Naomi Osaka reacts after winning a point. — AFP

Swiatek by then was all fired up and she did not let it slide, getting to fight another day in Paris and extending her winning run to 14 matches after claiming the titles in Madrid and Rome.

The Pole, however, had a message for the French Open fans, known to be a fickle crowd.

"Basically for you, because it's entertainment and we make a lot of money thanks to you, sometimes when we are under a lot of pressure you scream during the rallies and it's hard to stay focused," Swiatek told the crowd.

Her intervention was met with cheers, and only a few boos.

"This is serious, we're fighting to be better and better, there's a lot of money to earn here. You can support us between the rallies but not during the rallies, please.

"I know the French crowd gets players they don't like and they boo, but I know you love me so let's keep that."

It was not the first time that the Roland Garros faithful, known to show up late for the afternoon matches on the back of long lunches and sometimes pick on players, were in the spotlight for the wrong reasons on Wednesday.

American Coco Gauff rolled past Slovenian Tamara Zidansek 6-3 6-4 in the second round of Roland Garros on Wednesday, harnessing her mighty forehand in front of a crowd squarely on her side.

The US Open winner sent over nearly two dozen winners and overcame issues with her serve, including six double faults, to set up a meeting with the winner of a match between China's Wang Yafan and Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska.

The finalist in 2022 showed early signs of nerves as the unseeded Zidansek broke her serve in the opening game of the match.

But Gauff broke back in the sixth and eighth games, getting the decisive second-set break in the ninth game before pumping her fist with satisfaction as Zidansek sent the ball out of bounds on match point.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur beat Colombia's Camila Osorio 6-3 1-6 6-3 in a roller-coaster match in humid conditions under the roof on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to move into the third round.

Jabeur hardly put a foot wrong in the opening set but she allowed Osorio to get back into the match with a poor second-set performance before raising her intensity in the third to secure the win.

"Obviously tough conditions for me. I don't like when the ball gets too heavy. I didn't know how to manage much in the second set but I'm glad I turned it back in the third one," Jabeur told reporters.

"I was trying to be more aggressive. Obviously when the balls are new, it's even better for me. I felt like it was a bit humid inside that court... I would say, a lot humid."

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz reached the third round but suffered a worrying loss of form midway through his match against Dutch qualifier Jesper de Jong before winning 6-3 6-4 2-6 6-2 on Wednesday.

The third seed was forced to work hard for a two-set lead under the Court Philippe Chatrier roof but 176th-ranked De Jong refused to be intimidated and extended the match as Alcaraz suffered a third-set slump.

An error-strewn Alcaraz continued to struggle as the first four games of the fourth set all went against serve with the 21-year-old becoming increasingly frustrated on court.

But Alcaraz regained some control in the nick of time to hold serve for a 3-2 lead and he broke De Jong in the next game as his gritty opponent finally began to run out of steam.

There was some relief as Alcaraz accelerated towards victory and De Jong netted a forehand after a little more than three hours to end an absorbing contest.


More news from Sports