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Iga Swiatek overcomes Naomi Osaka at French Open

Iga Swiatek passed an early test in a bid for a fourth French Open title in five years, saving a match point en route to beating fellow four-time major champion Naomi Osaka.

Swiatek prevailed 7-6 (1), 1-6, 7-5 to reach the third round at Roland Garros, where rain wiped out much of scheduled play on outer courts on Wednesday.

Osaka, who returned to competition in January after July 2023 childbirth, led 5-2 in the third set and had a match point on serve at 5-3 before Swiatek won three consecutive points to break.

“I felt for most of the match that I wasn’t really here and now,” Swiatek said in an on-court interview. “My mind was playing around sometimes. When I was really under this biggest pressure, I was able to actually focus more and play better and really not think about what the score is or that I’m really close to losing.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | Broadcast Schedule

The match was the first at any tournament between two women with four major titles since the last time Venus and Serena Williams met in August 2020.

Swiatek, the world’s top-ranked player for most of the last two years, had won 13 consecutive matches going into Wednesday, plus 15 consecutive French Open matches since her last defeat in 2021.

At 22, she is bidding to become the youngest woman in the professional era (since 1968) to win four French Open titles.

The other three seeds in Swiatek’s section of the draw have all lost, clearing a path to the quarterfinals for the already overwhelming tournament favorite.

She next plays 42nd-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova or 135th-ranked Croatian Jana Fett.

Osaka is a former world No. 1 who won two U.S. Opens and two Australian Opens on hard courts from 2018 to 2021.

She became the first player to hold Swiatek to fewer than four games won in a French Open set since Swiatek’s tournament debut in 2019.

“I cried when I got off the court, but then, for me, I kind of realize I was watching Iga win this tournament last year, and I was pregnant,” Osaka said. “It was just my dream to be able to play her. When I kind of think of it like that, I think I’m doing pretty well.”

Osaka has never made it past the third round on the French Open clay, and last beat a top-10 player on any surface in January 2020.

Granted, she has only faced three top-10 players in the last four years, taking breaks from the sport in that time for mental health, an Achilles injury and for pregnancy leave last year. Daughter Shai walked for the first time on Friday.

This season, Osaka has played 10 tournaments, her most in the first half of a year since 2018, with one quarterfinal run. She is ranked 42nd if counting only tournaments in 2024.

She did win three matches at her last tournament before the French, including beating top-20 players Daria Kasatkina and Marta Kostyuk.

Osaka said that she wrote to herself Wednesday in a little book, “I’m proud of you.”

“I played (Swiatek) on her better surface,” she said. “I’m a hard-court kid, so I would love to play her on my surface and see what happens. I also said in Australia (in January) that I’m kind of setting myself up for September (and the U.S. Open) anyway.”

The Paris Olympic tennis fields will largely be known after the French Open.