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By Erik Gudris | @atntennis | Wednesday, May 29, 2024


In a thrilling clash of champions, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek saved match point fighting off Naomi Osaka  7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5 to reach the Roland Garros third round.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty

In an instant classic between two multiple major champions, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek survived a nearly surprise early exit at the hands of another former No. 1 Naomi Osaka in Paris.

The reigning Roland Garros champion Swiatek fought off a match point in the third set of their second-round meeting before rallying to complete a comeback 7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5 victory over the four-time major champion Osaka.

"Well, it's hard to have any logical thoughts, because for sure, you know, it was really intense and on a really high level," Swiatek said. "I was, you know, in huge trouble in the third set, but I managed somehow to win this match, which is kind of abstract, but I'm glad that I didn't give up."

It is Swiatek's 14th straight clay-court win and her 16th consecutive Roland Garros victory as she improved to 20-0 lifetime vs. players ranked outside the Top 100 at Grand Slams.

In this rematch of the 2022 Miami Open final, Osaka disarmed Swiatek at times building that big third-set lead. 

The world No. 1 conceded she thought she was done prior to pulling off her stirring comeback. 

"Well, I honestly didn't believe I could win, because I would be pretty naive," Swiatek said. "But it didn't change the fact that I just tried to do work to play better. I actually managed to be more focused at the end of the match, which went pretty badly, you know. In first and second set I felt like I'm not completely, you know, in the zone. When I was under the biggest pressure I was able actually to, yeah, switch that and maybe that made the difference.

"But honestly, when it's so tight, it's just, I don't know. It's not like I have influence on everything, but for sure, if I didn't give up, I just increase my chances. I tried to just play better as I would if I would be practicing or if I would be, I don't know, 4-5 and not 2-5, yeah."

It was an emotional end for Osaka, who shed tears after a gut-wrenching loss but took pride in her performance against the three-time Roland Garros champion, a challenge she called "a dream."

"I cried when I got off the court, but then, you know, for me, I kind of realize I was watching Iga, like, win this tournament last year, and I was pregnant," Osaka said. "It was just my dream to, like, be able to play her.

"When I kind of think of it like that, I think I'm doing pretty well. And I'm also just trying not to be too hard on myself. I feel like I played her on her better surface. I'm a hard-court kid, so I would love to play her on my surface and see what happens."

In only their third career meeting, Swiatek and Osaka engaged in a fierce battle for control in the first set.

This intense competition eventually led to a tiebreak that Swiatek dominated, dropping only one point. The second set was all about Osaka. Using pinpoint power and exceptional court coverage, Osaka breezed through the second set 6-1.

Osaka, currently ranked World No. 134, appeared poised to pull off the unexpected upset in the final set. Osaka jumped out to a 5-2 lead with Swiatek seemingly unable to counter her opponent’s game.

Heavy rain pelted the closed retractable roof over Court Philippe Chatrier as Osaka thundered winners building that third-set lead.

The critical game when Osaka served later for the match at 5-3.

Up match point, Osaka netted a backhand that put the game back at deuce. A few points later, Osaka committed another backhand error that put Swiatek back on serve at 4-5.

Afterward, when informed she held match point, Osaka replied "I did? That sucks," prompting laughter in the interview room.
"At 5-3, I mean I definitely felt like I had a chance, but I think I was playing point by point. Eventually I didn't have that chance anymore," Osaka told the media in Paris. "But I kind of think of it more as an opportunity, like, I had the opportunity to -- I'm not even sure if I had a match point. Maybe I did. I did? That sucks. (Laughter.)

"But, yeah, I think, like, there's a reason why she's No. 1, and she played certain points really well. For me, while I was playing with her, I was learning too. I mean, it feels bad, but I really think, like, I can grow a lot from this experience.

"I mean, I went into the match fully believing that I was going to win. Like, sitting here, it's not the memory I thought I was going to have at the end of the day."

From there, Swiatek would level at 5-all and then get ahead 6-5 with another service break.  Eventually, Swiatek’s backhand would prove stronger, allowing her to finally see a match point for herself after almost three hours of play.

Osaka sent a final backhand long to conclude the compelling second-round encounter.

Hall of Famer and Tennis Channel analyst Lindsay Davenport called this "the highest quality second-round match at a major I have ever seen."

More to come.


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