France Tennis French Open

Poland’s Iga Swiatek reacts after winning a point against Naomi Osaka during their second-round match at the French Open on Wednesday. Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

PARIS — Iga Swiatek played like the current No. 1 and the two-time defending champion at the French Open. No surprise there. That Naomi Osaka looked like the former No. 1 that she is – and on clay, no less – amounted to an announcement that she is still quite capable of elite tennis.

Surging down the stretch as Osaka faded, Swiatek saved a match point and grabbed the last five games to sneak her way to a 7-6 (1), 1-6, 7-5 victory in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday night in a thrill-a-minute contest befitting two women who both own four Grand Slam titles.

“For sure, this match was really intense. Much more intense for the second round than I ever expected. For sure, I’ll be more ready next time,” Swiatek said. “Naomi played amazing tennis. … I’m happy that she’s back and she’s playing well.”

For Swiatek, this extended her Roland Garros winning streak to 16 matches as she pursues a third consecutive trophy at the clay-court major. For Osaka, who cried when she left the court after letting a 5-2 lead in the concluding set slip away, this amounted to a return to her big-hitting best.

They went back-and-forth for nearly three hours as rain loudly pelted the outside of the closed roof at Court Philippe Chatrier – showers forced the postponements of 23 singles matches until Thursday – and a riveted, if hardly full, crowd alternated their support between the two players. Sometimes, spectators called out before a point was done, prompting admonishment from chair umpire Aurélie Tourte during the match. And from Swiatek afterward.

“Sometimes, under a lot of pressure, when you scream something during the rally or right before the return, it’s really, really hard to be focused,” Swiatek said. “The stakes are big and there is a lot of money here to win. So losing a few points may change a lot. So please, guys, if you can support us between the rallies but not during, that would be really, really amazing.”


Osaka served for the victory at 5-3 in the final set, and was a point away from winning but put a backhand into the net. Soon, when Osaka missed another backhand, this one long, Swiatek finally converted a break point on her 10th chance of that set, and they played on.

Maybe the lack of high-level matches caught up to Osaka, because her mistakes continued to mount, including a double-fault that put Swiatek in control 6-5. Swiatek, who has led the WTA rankings for nearly every week since April 2022, then held serve one last time.

Still, this was, without a doubt, Osaka’s top performance since returning to the tour in January after 15 months away while becoming a mother. (Her daughter, who is 10 months old, accompanied Osaka to Paris and recently started walking.)

Indeed, it’s been a few years since Osaka played this capably and confidently, hammering big serves at up to 122 mph and imposing groundstrokes. Her quick-strike capabilities were on full display: Osaka won 82 of the 139 points (59%) that lasted four strokes or fewer, and she finished with a 54-37 advantage in total winners.

All of those familiar mannerisms were back, too. She turned her back to Swiatek to reset between points, hopped in place, tugged at her pink visor’s brim and slapped her palm on her thigh. Osaka celebrated points by shaking a clenched fist and shouting “Come on!”

She grabbed nine of 10 games to dominate the second set and lead 3-0 in the third. Then 4-1. Then 5-2.


As one ball or another would fly past Swiatek, zipped near a corner or right at a line, she turned toward her guest box and shot a look of confusion or concern in the direction of her coach and her sports psychologist.

“I felt for most of the match that I wasn’t really (in the) here and now,” Swiatek said. “My mind was, like, playing around sometimes.”

She’s not used to this sort of one-way traffic coming head-on in her direction. Normally it’s Swiatek who is delivering lopsided sets at a foe’s expense, especially on clay.

She now has won her last 14 matches this month, with titles on the surface at Madrid and Rome – a clay double no woman had done since Serena Williams in 2013.

Osaka entered with an 0-4 record on the red stuff against opponents ranked in the top 10 and never has been past the third round at Roland Garros. This also would have been her first win anywhere against a top-10 opponent since January 2020.

Instead, though, it is Swiatek who moves on and continues her bid to become the first woman with three straight championships in Paris since Justine Henin in 2007-09.


On the men’s side, Carlos Alcaraz’s forehand was giving him a hard time, and so was the 176th-ranked qualifier across the net. After ceding the third set and trailing by a break in the fourth, Alcaraz needed to get in gear – and he did, taking the last five games to beat Jesper de Jong 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the second round.

A few other matches also were played despite the rain. The winners included Sofia Kenin, the champion at the Australian Open in 2020 and runner-up at the French Open later that year; and a pair of two-time major finalists, Ons Jabeur and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Jabeur advanced to the third round by defeating Camila Osorio 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, and Tsitsipas moved on with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4 victory over Daniel Altmaier.

Kenin arrived at the French Open with just a 4-13 record this season and now is into the third round at Roland Garros after eliminating 21st-seeded Caroline Garcia of France, 6-3, 6-3.

“Her game annihilates my strong points. She takes the ball early. She changes directions. She returns quite well,” Garcia said. “That actually makes her difficult to outplay.”

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