Swiatek v Peterson: Things we learned

 - Chris Oddo

Polish reigning champion took her dazzling brand of clay-court tennis to Court Simonne-Mathieu on Thursday

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2021, second round © Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Iga Swiatek continued to bulldoze her way through opponents on Thursday in Paris with another lopsided victory, over Sweden's Rebecca Peterson.

The defending champion stretched her streak of consecutive sets won at Roland-Garros to 18, notching a 6-1, 6-1 triumph to book a third-round clash with No.30 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

Here's what we learned from Swiatek's second-round victory.

Still streaking

For those who wondered how Swiatek was going to handle the pressure of defending her first Grand Slam title in Paris, the emphatic answer has come in the first two rounds.

The 20-year-old hasn't just ensured safe passage to the third round, she's bolted through the gates and displayed the same whip-smart tennis that took her to her maiden title in 2020 at Roland-Garros.

Swiatek, who dropped just 28 games en route to the title last year, notched her ninth consecutive victory in Paris, and her eighth consecutive victory of 2021. Through two rounds this year in Paris, she has dropped a measly seven games.

The No.8 seed says she had a good feeling about the match the minute she woke up.

"I had a good day today since I woke up, so I knew that I'm going to be in the right mood," she said. "I just kept that. I did my routines before the match. Then when I was on the court, I just felt the ball perfectly. I felt like I could do anything with it. So I'm pretty happy that I had this, you know, this attitude right now."

Swiatek - who became the youngest player to lift the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen since Monica Seles in 1992 last autumn - entered the tournament in sizzling form, after winning the Rome title on the strength of a 6-0, 6-0 victory over world No.10 Karolina Pliskova in the final.

She hasn't skipped a beat in Paris, where she is off to the third round with momentum on her side.

The focus factor

Court craft. A sixth sense. Focus factor. Whatever you call it, Swiatek has it in spades and she uses it to methodically motor past her opponents.

In her relatively short career, Swiatek has shown a rare penchant for front-running. Not only does the Pole perform exceptionally while protecting a lead, she also has a knack for stretching a slim advantage, making it bigger and essentially providing her opponent with a mental gut punch.

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2021, second round © Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

In the opening set on Thursday, she went astray for a couple points and essentially handed Peterson a break point, while serving at 3-0. But the No.8 seed slammed the window shut immediately, playing splendid tennis over the next few points to hold for 4-0. Message sent to the Swede, who was under pressure throughout the contest in this regard.

Another perfect example came in the next game after a drop shot error by Swiatek at game point gave Peterson a chance to close to 1-4. That window was shut as well. Swiatek's concentration and situational awareness in tight situations always seems to rise.

A drop shot clinic

Swiatek's variety is a key ingredient to her success on the clay, and it was on full display against Peterson as she mixed power, precision, angles and changes in trajectory to keep the Swede off balance. Though she only used it sparingly, the drop shot was one of Swiatek's key weapons.

In possession of devastating spin that pushes her opponents back behind the baseline, Swiatek picked several opportunities to test out the drop shot to exploit her opponent's court positioning, particularly from the backhand side.

Swiatek says she finds that her opponents are frequently backing up behind the baseline, which gives her more opportunities to execute the shot to perfection.

"They're like waiting for the ball to drop," she said. "I can use drop shots and surprise them because they are not ready to go forward. I think it's just a good weapon."

At one point early in the second set Tennis Channel commentator Jan-Michael Gambill couldn't help but exclaim, "These drop shots are just ridiculous!" as he called the match.

Clean as a whistle, onto Kontaveit next

Swiatek tidied up her game nicely, compared to her first-round victory over Kaja Juvan.

In that match the Pole hit 22 winners and committed 24 unforced errors. Thursday's performance was much more crisp, with Swiatek cracking 22 winners against just 12 unforced errors.

Swiatek also managed a much higher percentage of first-serve points won against Peterson, winning 80 per cent (20 of 25) of first-serve points, compared to just 65 per cent against Juvan - another sign that she's dialing up the efficiency round by round.

"In the second set I kind of lost my focus for a bit, and she used that," Swiatek said of her 6-0, 7-5 win over Juvan. "I learned from that. Today was a day I was consistent till the end."

After the match Swiatek was asked if she thinks about the fact that the two top seeds - Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka - are already out of the draw. Predictably, she said she preferred to focus on her next match.

"I'm just focusing on my next round," she said. "Actually, I'm gonna play against Anett Kontaveit. She's, like, super experienced. I already lost against her two times. So it's going to be a tough match."