PARIS, France – Iga Swiatek produced a scintillating performance to defeat No.1 seed Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2 in the third round of the French Open, taking just 68 minutes in the process.
The 19-year-old Pole was dispatched at the same stage of the 2019 competition in just 45 minutes for the loss of one game by the 2018 champion but produced a display of the highest quality to eliminate the WTA World No.2 in almost reciprocal fashion.
For her part, Halep, who had won her previous 17 matches, was not errant – she made only 15 unforced errors – but was no match for the angles and variety being found at the other end of the court. Against arguably the best defensive player in the woman’s game, Swiatek struck 30 winners in total, making just 20 miscues.
“I don’t know what happened! I was playing perfectly. I was so focused for the whole match, and even I’m surprised I can do that,” she admitted.
Neither player came into the encounter on Philippe Chatrier having dropped a set in the opening week of the competition, while between them they had lost only six games in the third round.
The WTA World No.54, though, was utterly dominant in the opening set, which went her way in just 24 minutes. Her hitting punctured holes in all areas of the Halep defense and her aggressive mindset allowed her to back this up in the forecourt.
The tone was rapidly set, with only seven minutes on the board as she had claimed the first three games off the back of eight winners.
Although Halep was able to hold to get on the board, the confidence of the teenager continued to soar, which saw her increasingly employ the use of a dropshot. Indeed, an acute backhand winner was followed up with such a shot that was so laden with spin that it barely bounced as Halep unsuccessfully scrambled after it as she sought to save a break point.
The opening frame was fittingly sealed with a Swiatek backhand winner down the line, and she built from this position by grabbing an early break in the second set then holding to love.
Halep was battling just to stay in touch. Her fighting spirit was evident as she saved four break points in a seven-minute third game, but this gutsy hold did not herald the beginnings of a comeback.
Instead, as she pressed more incessantly with her groundstrokes, probing the defensive qualities of her rival, she found Swiatek in resolute form, fast around the court and unyielding to the pressure that was being placed upon her. It may have taken a nine-minute long service game and six more break points, but she soon had insurance on her lead as she struck out to a 4-1 advantage.
Swiatek would not give her opponent so much as a break point over the course of the match, which was seen out with three winners as she held to love.
Reflecting on the turnaround in her fortunes between her two meetings with Halep, she reflected: “I wasn’t experienced at all last year, it was my first match in a big stadium. Since then, I’ve played some big matches. Right now, I feel like I can handle the pressure.
“I remembered that last year she beat me but lost against Amanda Anisimova in the next round. I thought we could do the same thing this year but just change the names around.”
The winner of Martina Trevisan and Kiki Bertens lies in wait for the teenager, who is into her second career quarterfinal after Lugano in 2019.