Iga Swiatek survives match point to come through fierce battle with Naomi Osaka

Iga Swiatek came through a titanic second-round clash with fellow four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka to reach the French Open third round.

Osaka looked set to pull off her biggest win in years when she led the world number one and defending champion 5-2 in the third set.

But the 26-year-old from Japan will have nightmares about a missed forehand as Swiatek survived a match point to come from brink of defeat and win 7-6 (1) 1-6 7-5.

It was a remarkable effort from Osaka, the former world number one who only returned to action after maternity leave in January.

It was only three years ago that she pulled out of the French Open, suffering from depression, and put her tennis career on hold.

She has never particularly liked playing on the clay, either, having not progressed past the third round in Paris, and is now ranked 134 in the world.

Swiatek, by contrast, has looked invincible on her best surface this season, winning her last 13 matches including titles in Madrid and Rome, and was a red-hot favourite for a third successive Roland Garros title, and a fourth in five years.

Osaka’s start was not very encouraging but, broken in the first game, she settled as the opening set wore on and hit back for 4-4 and forced a set point on Swiatek’s serve.

Swiatek averted that crisis and, when she took a one-sided tie-break, the game looked up for Osaka.

Osaka fought back into the contest with a string of winners
Osaka fought back into the contest with a string of winners (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

But the 2021 US Open champion began swinging and Swiatek started scrambling.

Roland Garros chiefs come in for criticism for not holding enough women’s matched in the prime-time night session – they have not picked one so far this year – but they missed a trick with this one.

Such has been Swiatek’s dominance at the tournament she had only previously dropped seven sets in five years at Roland Garros.

But at times she looked on in bewilderment as Osaka pummelled winner after winner – she hit 54 in all – past her to level the match.

In the decider Osaka hit an astonishing five winners in one game, even standing and admiring the backhand which fizzed across Swiatek to clinch another break.

Osaka had a match point on her racket but Swiatek repelled it with a fine return and instead a forehand into an open court that floated millimetres too long allowed the 22-year-old from Poland to break back.

The pressure was telling on both players, with Swiatek berating a spectator for calling out during a point.

Yet, when Osaka tightened up badly and double-faulted Swiatek, who had trailed 5-2, served for the match and an enthralling contest of immense quality ended when the Osaka’s backhand drifted wide.

Swiatek had not forgotten the scream from the crowd which cost her a point afterwards and told them: “I am sorry to bring this up. I have huge respect for you guys and I know we are playing for you. This is entertainment.

“But sometimes under a lot of pressure when you scream something during the rally or right before the return, it’s really, really hard to be focused.”

She added: “This match was really intense, much more intense for the second round than I ever expected.

“Naomi played really great tennis and maybe she is going to be a clay court specialist in a while.”

Osaka issued her rival a friendly challenge. She said: “I cried when I got off the court, then I thought that I watched Iga win this tournament last year when I was pregnant.

“When I think about it like that I think I’m not doing too badly. I would love to play her on my surface and see what happens.”

Ons Jabeur also made it through to the third round
Ons Jabeur also made it through to the third round (Christophe Ena/AP)

Ons Jabeur also found herself in a scrap to reach round three.

The Tunisian, a two-time Wimbledon finalist, lost her way in the second set against Colombia’s Camila Osorio but finished strongly in a 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory.

There was disappointment for the Paris crowd when French number one Caroline Garcia, the 21st seed, went down 6-3 6-3 to former finalist Sofia Kenin.

Third seed Coco Gauff came through in straight sets against Tamara Zidansek, 6-3 6-4.