Swiatek v Bucsa: Things we learned

 - Dan Imhoff

Two-time champion shakes the cobwebs in opening test

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

A little early rust is to be expected from defending champion Iga Swiatek before shifting up a gear in her return to Court Philippe-Chatrier.

After wobbling, settling and ultimately sprinting clear, the top seed saw off Cristina Bucsa to reach the second round at Roland-Garros on Tuesday.

The two-time champion had her hands full early on, but stepped up when it came to the crunch.

Here’s what we learned from Swiatek’s 6-4, 6-0 triumph.

Swiatek enters uncharted waters

This was the Pole’s first Grand Slam outing as defending champion and world No.1.

If the pressure of going back-to-back in Paris is not a heavy enough burden, Swiatek stands to lose both this fortnight.

With the stakes raised, a clean start was paramount in her first match since retiring with a thigh injury against Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals of her Rome title defence less than a fortnight ago.

While it was a scrap and a struggle in gusty conditions, as the afternoon shadow completed its progression across the clay, Swiatek snuck the opening set on her third break and never looked back.

First hurdle cleared, she next takes on 102nd-ranked American Claire Liu, who defeated Swiss qualifier Ylena In-Albon.

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Bucsa up to any conditions

While Moldovan-born Bucsa arrived at a career-best mark of world No.68, she had never before beaten a top-20 opponent and was attempting to snap a four-match losing streak on the terre battue.

Crafty and reliant on her variety and placement, the 25-year-old was handling the swirling conditions better in a topsy-turvy opening set as she read Swiatek’s patterns of play like a classical chess master.

In the opening set alone the 1.76m Spaniard quadrupled her total game tally from their only previous encounter in the third round of this year’s Australian Open.

Swiatek was particularly stingy Down Under, conceding just one game in a lop-sided affair.

It was her last win before eventual finalist Rybakina ended her run at Melbourne Park.

Iga Swiatek, Cristina Busca, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Top seed won’t buy into talk of Big Three yet

Yet to beat Rybakina in three meetings this year and with Aryna Sabalenka having joined the Grand Slam winners’ circle at the Australian Open the gap has closed on the Pole since her runaway season last year.

With the most to lose of the trio this fortnight, Swiatek preferred sidestepping talk of rivalries for now.

“I kind of have my own journey and I think I would work on my tennis anyway. But for sure it's nice that we have such strong players on the WTA,” Swiatek said.

“For sure we’re pushing each other but honestly I don't really care. I'm trying to just focus on myself and that's all.”

Queen of clay’s handy record grows

On the eve of her 22nd birthday, Swiatek improved her Roland-Garros record to 22-2 with her 91.7 per cent winning ratio closing in on Chris Evert’s 92.3 per cent and Margaret Court’s 95.2 per cent in the Open Era.

“I have a lot of experience playing here so I know this court pretty well and it's always comfortable but I'm trying to focus only on what's in the future,” Swiatek said.