World No. 1 Iga Swiatek needed to rally to tough out 19-year-old Qinwen Zheng 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals at the French Open.
Swiatek came in on a 31-match wins streak and 20 straight sets but perhaps facing nerves failed to capitalize on a break lead early and then blew a 5-2 lead in the breaker to the powerful teen who was making her French Open debut.
Zheng saved a total of five set points to steal on the opener, and suddenly Swiatek found herself in a fight for the first time in a month.
Zheng, though, would come up lame. Down a break in the second, Zheng left the court to receive treatment on her upper right leg (which she later clarified was a stomach issue). When she returned, her movement dropped off and Swiatek rolled to a quick 6-0 second set to even things.
Swiatek pushed ahead 2-0 in the third before Zheng removed the strapping and played better but the Polish star wouldn’t be denied a 32nd straight win.
“She’s playing amazing tennis,” said Swiatek. “I’ve never had a chance to play her and I was surprised by some of her shots. Her topspin is amazing, huge congrats to her, it’s a huge tournament, it’s a good result. I’m pretty happy I could come back after a pretty frustrating first set when I held the lead, proud of myself that I’m still in the tournament.”
Swiatek will now meet the sturdy American Jessica Pegula who also came from a set down. Pegula advanced to her third Slam quarter, first in Paris, with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“Quarterfinal is such a stressful round, hopefully I’m going to be able to play my game,” said Swiatek. “I know how Jessica can play, she’s a had a great season, I know how dangerous she can be.”
The two have split two meetings with Swiatek winning in Miami this year and Pegula in Washington a few summers ago.
Earlier, two Russians made it through as Daria Kasatkina dusted Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-2. Kasatkina hasn’t been on a tear and hasn’t even come close to surrendering a set in four matches thus far.
“If we talk about me changing in the past six years, honestly I don’t remember myself six years ago,” said Kasatkina. “But watching the matches from the past I can see that I’m making a bit better decisions in the important moments. Physically, I think I become better, I’m improving, I’m working a lot. So I think from my point of view this is the main changes.”
Veronika Kudermotva advanced to her first Slam quarter coming from a set down to defeat former semifinalist Madison Keys 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.
“I tried to trust myself. I tried to believe. I tried to fight, I think that was the key,” Kudermetova said.
“Sometimes to keep playing harder or sometimes to play with spin, a little bit smarter. I think I did a really good job today. It’s amazing, it’s amazing. I can say only this.”
Kudermetova and Kasatkina will battle for a first Slam semifinals.
Tomorrow, the first two quarterfinals take place with an American and a lefty assured of moving on.
Former finalist Sloane Stephens takes on 18-year-old Coco Gauff and Martina Trevisan locks up with first-time French quarterfinals Leylah Fernandez.
Gauff will seek her first Grand Slam semifinal and her first win over Stephens who beat her at the US Open last year.
“I think last time I played her I was super nervous going into the match,” Gauff said. “Not because it was Sloane. Just because we were on Ashe and it was all-American matchup. I think a lot of people expected a lot from me in that match.
“Just going to approach it like any other match. Yeah, obviously I have to go back and watch that match and see what I can learn from it.”
Fernandez won the junior French title in 2019.
“Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove. I still have that mindset I’m the underdog. I’m still young, I still have a lot to show to the people, to the public so that they can just enjoy the tennis match,” the Canadian said.
“That’s ultimately my goal, and that’s why I, like, want to do well in matches. Then I think with that mindset has helped me understand that I can just keep going and keep competing in the right way and the right direction.”
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