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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, May 1, 2023

 
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Iga Swiatek won nine of the final 10 games in a 6-4, 6-0 sweep of Claire Liu to reach the Roland Garros third round for the fifth straight year.

Photo credit: Clive Mason/Getty

Flags were flapping in a frenzy high above Court Philippe Chatrier as Iga Swiatek faced turbulence on the terre battue below.

Shoveling a backhand into net, Swiatek dropped serve for the second time in a row to fall even in the opening set.

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A calm Swiatek shrugged it off storming through nine of the final 10 games in a 6-4, 6-0 win over American Claire Liu to reach the Roland Garros third round for the fifth straight year.

The day after celebrating her 22nd birthday, Swiatek was in no mood for working overtime. Swiatek must reach the quarterfinals to retain her world No. 1 ranking and took another step in the right direction today.




"For sure, you know, kind of in my head and physically the process was pretty similar as two days ago," Swiatek said. "So I was able to play a little bit better in the second set, and I kind of used first set to get more information and get into the rhythm, but Claire played pretty well. I feel like it was more intense.

"But I'm happy that I'm into the third round and I have a chance to play more matches here."

It was Swiatek's ninth consecutive Roland Garros win sending her into a third-round vs. China's Xinyu Wang.

The 80th-ranked Wang converted eight of 21 break points in a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Sweden's Rebecca Peterson to advance to a Grand Slam third round for the first time in eight major appearances.

Two-time champion Swiatek raised her Roland Garros record to 23-2, third best winning percentage in Open Era history behind only Hall of Famers Margaret Court and Chrissie Evert.

Through two rounds, Swiatek has dispensed two bagels in four sets backing up her 6-4, 6-0 first-round sweep of Spaniard Cristina Bucsa by stamping the same score on Liu today.

In both matches, Swiatek got off to sluggish service starts, found her groove and began clubbing her forehand with the force of a woman determined to leave divots in the dirt.

Hitting her forehand sometimes more than 10 mph faster than the world No. 102, Swiatek doubled Liu's winner total—24 to 12—and converted six of eight break points in a 90-minute win.

Dancing across the red clay with relaxed urgency, Swiatek commanded the center of the court. Swiatek swatted forehand winners in opposite corners scoring her second straight break to snatch a 3-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Though Liu lacks one massive weapon, she's solid in all areas and showed it coming right back with breaks of her own.

Struggling to tame her topspin amid the blustery breeze, Swiatek sailed a forehand to face a triple break point deficit in the sixth game.

An out of sorts Swiatek shoveled a backhand into net as Liu scored her second straight break for 3-3.

Resetting, Swiatek slugged a sharp-angled forehand return winner to break right back. The top seed swept aside a couple of break points in the next game belting a backhand winner down the line to back up the break for 5-3.

Despite dropping serve twice in the set, Swiatek's serve was there when she needed it.

The two-time champion used the serve to set up successive slashing forehand winners sealing a one-set lead at love. Swiatek hit 14 winners—eight more than Liu—and 15 unforced errors in an up and down opener.

One Swiatek found the range on her twisting topspin forehand, she proceeded to break down Liu's defenses. Swiatek started the second set breaking at 15 and never looked back.

The three-time Grand Slam champion and coach Tomasz Wiktorowski will want to work on getting out of the blocks faster and showing some more creativity on serve—Swiatek should be satisfied issuing a pair of shutout sets in four sets played.

Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who beat Swiatek on Rome's red clay last month, took another step toward a potential semifinal showdown vs. the defending champion.

The fourth-seeded Rybakina permitted just seven points on first serve dismissing Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-3. Rybakina, who has allowed just 11 games in two tournament wins, faces Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo in round three.




In an all-American clash, left-handed qualifier Kayla Day repeatedly tormented Madison Keys with her slider serve out wide posting a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory. Day scored her first career Top 20 victory avenging a 48=minute thrashing to Keys at the 2016 US Open.

Day, who has withstood a series of injuries in her comeback, credited former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash with helping her move more smoothly on clay.

"Well, Pat Cash, who's here with me, he's just completely changed my idea on movement and the way I move," Day said. "We did a lot of work before the clay season started together. So he's made probably the biggest difference in my movement, especially on my backhand side.

"Before I couldn't even really hit an open-stance backhand, so he helped me through that, basically, yeah."


 

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