Iga Swiatek extended her quest to defend her Roland Garros crown with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Marta Kostyuk in the Round of 16. The Polish superstar has won a hardly believable 22 straight sets in Paris.
The duel had all the ingredients to be a trap match for Swiatek. At night, her mighty forehand doesn’t bounce nearly as much, so it’s not as deadly. Kostyuk has yet to break the Top 50, but is trending in the right direction. It’s never easy for the more accomplished youngster to face an even younger talent trying to break through. The pressure lied completely on the shoulders of the reigning champion. For what it’s worth, 15-year-old Swiatek had beaten 14-year old Kostyuk 6-3 6-3 in the J1 Traralgon final back in 2017. The latter went on to win the Australian Open girls singles title a couple weeks later.
While the final score line might imply a routine victory for Swiatek, Kostyuk gave the No. 8 seed a run for her money. Especially in a thrilling first set. The Ukrainian came out swinging off both wings and, unlike Logan Paul against Floyd Mayweather, she managed to land plenty of punches.
Kostyuk brought different weapons to the table. Aggressive returns, blazing groundstrokes and precise drop-shots. Some of the rallies were of the highest quality.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 7, 2021
The clip above has it all: raw power, finesse, accuracy, offense, defense, athleticism, luck. If the next decade of women’s tennis is going to look like that, please sign me up.
In the end, though, Swiatek was inevitable. The Pole is rapidly building an aura of invincibility in Paris. At least, it seems like the outcome of every match she plays on clay lies in her racket.
Theoretically, the road to the title defense is only going to get harder moving forward. However, except Swiatek and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, no quarterfinalist had sniffed this round at a major before. And the Russian is winless in six previous trips to that stage.
In tennis, anything is possible. Yet, I think the 35.5% chance of retaining the crown Tennis Abstract gives Iga Swiatek is wildly conservative. All seven challengers are arguably playing the best tennis of their respective careers, but the eye test suggests Swiatek has an extra gear or two. Their most plausible pathway to the title might be if the Warsaw native pulled a Jon Rahm and had to be defaulted due to a positive COVID-19 test. Please, tennis overlords, don’t let that happen.
Main Photo from Getty.