Iga Swiatek on the cusp of French Open breakthrough

Swiatek French Open

With each victory scored by Iga Swiatek of Poland expectations and excitement grow. The decision not to play any tournaments since the Prague Open certainly seems to be paying off for the young gun who now boasts an impressive 9-2 win-loss record on the clay so far this season. That will surely give her confidence heading into a tricky third-round clash with Rio gold medallist Monica Puig at Roland Garros. But though Puig will certainly be a tough foe, this represents a real opportunity for Swiatek to reach the second week at a Major for the first time in her career.

Swiatek yet to drop a set

Swiatek, who will turn 18 the day before her match with Puig, will surely be hoping to prolong her birthday celebrations by defeating the Puerto Rican. Fatigue at least won’t be an issue for Swiatek who dropped just six games in beating 16-year-old French wild card Selena Janicijevic and 16th seed Wang Qiang, both by a score of 6-3 6-0. The break she took before the start of the French Open looks to have allowed her to rebuild her energy reserves.

She had looked jaded losing to Karolina Muchova in three sets in the first round in Prague at the beginning of May after battling through the qualifying. Her serve looked particularly vulnerable in that match, but she has defended it well so far in Paris. At the Prague Open, she won just 46% of the points behind her first serve and 57% behind her second. Those numbers have been much improved in the French capital, especially against Wang. In that match, Swiatek landed four aces and won 74% of the points behind her first serve.

The real tests still to come

This will be the first meeting between Swiatek and Puig. And with the greatest of due respect to Janicijevic and Qiang, Puig represents a significant step up in quality. The Puerto Rican possesses an impressive mixture of power and precision from the back of the court, which she displayed in her comprehensive 6-3 6-1 over Daria Kasatkina in the second round.

And it is exactly that sort of penetrative and accurate hitting that Swiatek struggled to contend with against Camila Giorgi in her defeat to the Italian at the Australian Open. Equally, however, Swiatek has improved significantly since January and is more comfortable on the clay than she is on a hard court. Swiatek also has great momentum, which can often be crucial for a young player’s chances of putting together a deep run at a Major.

Likely to be awaiting the winner of Swiatek and Puig’s match is defending champion Simona Halep. The Romanian has not quite looked at her best so far, but she is still undoubtedly a title threat in Paris. Were Swiatek to set up that match it would be her first against Halep and a great barometer for her clay court standard. Not to mention the chance to write her name in the Grand Slam history books.

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