Paris: Iga Swiatek survived a big scare as she advanced to the French Open quarter-finals by beating Chinese teenager Qinwen Zheng 6-7(5) 6-0 6-2 for her 32nd consecutive victory on Monday.
The world number one, gunning for a second title in three years at Roland Garros, showed rare signs of nerves as she let a comfortable lead slip through her hands before steamrolling her opponent after Zheng suffered a thigh problem.
Poland’s Swiatek, who will next face American 11th seed Jessica Pegula, is unbeaten since last February, claiming titles on clay in Stuttgart and Rome.
The 2020 champion is bidding to become the fourth player since 2000 to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup multiple times after Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
The 20-year-old is on the longest unbeaten run in the women’s tour since Serena bagged 34 victories in succession in 2013.
“She’s playing amazing tennis,” Swiatek said of Zheng. “I was surprised with some of her shots so congratulations to her. It’s a tough tournament. I’m happy I could come back after a frustrating first set.
“I’m proud of myself that I’m still in the tournament.”
Swiatek broke for 2-0 and kept her advantage throughout the first set although she rushed things at time.
The Pole wasted three set points at 5-3 and two more at 6-5 with Zheng forcing a tiebreak after throwing the kitchen sink at her.
Swiatek moved 5-2 up in the breaker and it seemed Zheng’s resistance would finally end, only for the Chinese, nicknamed ‘Fire’ at her tennis academy in Spain, to go for her shots and win the remaining five points to take the set.
Zheng took a medical time out at 3-0 down in the second set, having her back massaged on court before going to the locker room and coming back with her right thigh strapped.
The treatment did not seem to help much as she dropped eight games in a row.
She picked herself up to fight back in the third but the Swiatek express train was already going full speed and the Pole wrapped it up when Zheng’s backhand sailed long.