Swiatek keeps winning streak alive

 - Simon Cambers

World No.1 is through to a third consecutive Roland-Garros quarter-final after surviving Zheng test

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Top seed Iga Swiatek survived a big scare to keep her Roland-Garros title hopes alive as she beat Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals on Monday, extending her winning streak to 32 matches.

The 2020 champion squandered five set points in the opening set as the 19-year-old Zheng won five straight points to win the tiebreak after 82 minutes.

But after world No.74 Zheng had a medical timeout for a right thigh injury at 3-0 down in the second set, the world No.1 pulled away for a hard-earned victory after two hours and 45 minutes.

Swiatek, who is into her third straight Roland-Garros quarter-final, will play American Jessica Pegula, the No 11 seed, in the last eight.

Story of the match

Zheng had beaten Simona Halep on her way to round four of a Grand Slam for the first time and right from the start, Swiatek could tell that she would have to be on her toes. And so it proved as the 19-year-old gave her a huge scare.

With a big forehand and a backhand reminiscent of Li Na, China’s first and to date only Grand Slam singles champion, Zheng forced two break points in the opening game.

But Swiatek saved both, the first with a thunderous forehand winner and then broke in the next game before holding again to lead 3-0.

In her run of 31 straight wins, Swiatek had handed out 15 bagel sets but Zheng avoided that in the opening set with a superb serve-and-volley combination and then, with her confidence rising, broke Swiatek to get back on serve with a series of big-hitting groundstrokes.

Zheng Qinwen, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

But Swiatek steadied herself and broke Zheng right back in the sixth game, a sharp backhand return forcing the Chinese to attempt a drop shot, which fell short to give the world No.1 a 4-2 lead. Zheng threatened to break back again but Swiatek held for 5-2, fist pumping.

Zheng held for 5-3 and at 40-15, Swiatek looked set to close out the set only for her opponent to save both set points and then a third, before Swiatek netted a tight backhand to hand back the break again.

Suddenly, the top seed was looking rattled. Zheng held for 5-5 and with the help of two superb drop shots after lengthy rallies, she forced two break points to go ahead for the first time. Swiatek saved the first with an ace and the second with a brilliant forehand and held on to lead 6-5.

The 12th game was a mini-classic in itself. Zheng forced Swiatek to play her very best tennis and put a smash away to end a brilliant point and give herself a fourth set point. Zheng saved it with a big backhand and then a fifth with a big serve, before holding to force a tiebreak.

Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Zheng led 2-0 but Swiatek won five straight points to lead 5-2 only for the Chinese to reel off five straight points herself, seemingly with no nerves, clinching the set when Swiatek framed a backhand wide, she had the set.

Both women took bathroom breaks before the start of the second and Swiatek emerged carrying a set of notes.

Having removed her sweatshirt midway through the first set, Swiatek put it back on at the start of the second and immediately broke, helped by one double fault from the Chinese teenager.

Swiatek saved a break point in the next game with a superb volley and another to lead 2-0 before breaking for a second time to lead 3-0. Zheng called the trainer for what looked like a problem with her right leg and after a medical timeout, she emerged with heavy strapping on her right thigh.

The injury changed everything. Swiatek raced through the rest of the set for her 15th bagel set of the year.

Zheng then removed the strapping from her leg in the opening game of the third. She was broken early in the final set but steadied herself and Swiatek struggled to deal with an injured opponent.

The Chinese hung in well until 4-2 but a double fault gave the Pole a second break and she made no mistake as she served out for victory.

Iga Swiatek Roland-Garros 2022 huitièmes ©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Key stats

As you might imagine for a tiebreak set, the first set was pretty even, with very little to choose between the two.

The only area in which Swiatek was having slightly more success was on the Zheng second serve. In the first set, the teenager was winning just 33 per cent of points on second serve, compared to 60 per cent for the world No.1.

Over the entire match, it was even more in Swiatek’s favour; Zheng winning 30 per cent and Swiatek 64 per cent.

Swiatek also had more success on break points, taking 7/14, compared to just 2/10 from Zheng.

The Chinese also hit more winners than Swiatek in the opening set but by the end of the match, Swiatek had completely turned things around with 32 winners to 21 for Zheng.

Zheng Qinwen, Roland Garros 2022, fourth round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

What the players said

Iga Swiatek: “She’s playing amazing tennis. 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.

On her quarter-final against Pegula: “(I’ll take it) the same as any other match, honestly. Quarter-final is such a stressful round, hopefully I’m going to be able to play my game. I know how Jessica can play, she’s a had a great season, I know how dangerous she can be.”