PARIS, France, - Polish teenager Iga Swiatek made it through a rainy Monday afternoon in emphatic fashion, knocking out 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round of Roland Garros.
"I felt I had control over the match. I knew her biggest weapons so I didn't want to give her chances to use them," she said after the match. "Tactically, I feel I played pretty well."
Swiatek scored her second Top 20 win of the year - and second at a major tournament - with the help of some fearless hitting to upset the No.15 seed after 63 minutes on Court No.7.
"I don't have many expectations because I had a lot when I came back from the COVID break, and in New York. Right now, I'm just focusing on tennis. I want to play my best, and I've always felt good here, so I feel good vibes. I'm used to not playing with crowds, but it's still a little weird because the courts are smaller here and so it always looked more packed when all of the fans were on the grounds. It's quieter now, but what can you do?"
Facing off for the first time, both Swiatek and Vondrousova were fresh off fantastic French Open results in 2019. As an 18-year-old, Swiatek, a former junior standout, stunned reigning Olympic champion Monica Puig to reach her first career Grand Slam second week, where she ultimately bowed out against defending champion Simona Halep.
Vondrousova went even farther, shocking Johanna Konta to reach her first Grand Slam final, finishing runner-up to future World No.1 Ashleigh Barty.
"I was a bit scared of her drop shots," Swiatek admitted in post-match press. "It's harder to run for them here, breaking into full sprints."
"We played an exhibition during the lockdown. I won it and I think it helped a lot because it's always stressful for me to be up against more experienced players, and she made it to the finals here last year. It gave me more confidence and even though the match was on hardcourts, I knew her weapons, and I felt more ready to play today."
Though a left wrist injury prematurely curtailed her 2019 season, Vondrousova showed vast improvement as the tour turned back to clay, rolling into the Internazionli BNL d'Italia semifinals with a win over two-time champion Elina Svitolina.
Earning a pair of break points in the opening game after a rain delay postponed the start time by several hours, Vondrousova nonetheless found herself behind 3-0 to Swiatek, who won 12 of 15 points behind a barrage of aggressive play.
Though the Czech interrupted things with a hold, Swiatek was undeterred, scoring a second break with a backhand passing shot, and earning two set points with a forehand putaway at net. With her 11th winner - a backhand into the open court - the Pole swept the set in under 30 minutes.
"I had a lot of discussions with my team and my sports psychologist after New York. We went back to basics, and just worked on hitting the ball without thinking too much. Going back to the state I'm in right now was a long process. I had such high expectations at the Western & Southern Open, so it wasn't easy. The next time, though, will be better, because now I have more experience and I won't make that same mistake again."
The No.15 seed battled hard to start the second set, saving three break points in her opening service game, unforced errors hindered her cause as an errant forehand put Swiatek up a set and a break.
Hitting through blustery conditions to emerge on top of an ensuing exchange of breaks, Swiatek soon put her stamp on the set, breaking again and moving ahead 5-1.
The teenager served well when it came time to close, earning two match points on the terre battue, and though Vondrousova saved the first with an impressive backhand passing shot, Swiatek overpowered the Czech star one last time to ease over the finish line in just over an hour.
"I don't really know what I would do better," Vondrousova said after the match. "I think she was so good today, she didn't give me much chances, so I think she was just better."
In all, the youngster took more risks and reaped the rewards, making 23 winners to 19 unforced errors, and though Vondrousova struck fewer errors, she hit just seven winners and converted but one of three break point chances. Winning nearly 60% of points on return, Swiatek converted five of nine chances while defending her second serve in some style, ceding just four points.
Standing between Swiatek and a second straight trip to the third round is WTA Doubles World No.1 Hsieh Su-Wei, who outlasted Austrian qualifier Barbara Haas in a second set tie-break.