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Swiatek comes through second-set scrap to beat Juvan

The reigning Roland-Garros champion had a more difficult time than might have been expected in her first-round clash with Kaja Juvan

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros Iga Swiatek in practice at Roland-Garros in 2021 (Panoramic)

Kaja Juvan is Iga Swiatek‘s best friend – but that didn’t stop the defending Roland-Garros champion from serving her up a first-set bagel in the first round on Monday en route to a 6-0, 7-5 triumph.

It looked like she was going to be dishing out a proper humbling as the 20-year-old celebrated her birthday by simply picking up where she left off in Rome, when she lifted the title with a 6-0, 6-0 dismissal of Karolina Pliskova in the final.

But Juvan – also aged 20 – showed some resistance in the second set, getting her first break of the match to close the gap to 6-0, 3-2.

And Swiatek had the chance to move further ahead, with two break points that could have given her a 4-2 lead – but her Slovenian opponent kept her nerve and stayed in touch.

Swiatek took her fourth match point by coming back from 40-0 down on the Juvan serve, closing out a second set that lasted over an hour – and the two friends embraced fondly at the net and then again at the chairs, where they had an impromptu post-match debrief.

Nevertheless, Swiatek’s dismantling of her pal was a much more comprehensive one than she handed out earlier in the year, when the two met for the first time on the WTA Tour at the Gippsland Trophy; on the Melbourne hard court, it was a more balanced 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

“It’s never easy to play against your best friend,” Swiatek admitted in her press conference afterwards. “I have some experience because I played with Kaja for a few times. I play[ed] with my other friends on junior level.

“You just try to block this friendship for two hours, just focus on the game. I think I’m doing that pretty well. It’s nice to have that skill. So I was just trying to treat Kaja as any other girl, as any other opponent, because in sports when we are on court you can’t have thoughts that are going to make your game more soft. I’m pretty happy that I could handle that.”

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