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Swiatek pleads for peace from the fans after edging past Osaka at French Open

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe AP - Jean-Francois Badias
THU, 30 MAY 2024 LISTEN
AP - Jean-Francois Badias

Defending champion Iga Swiatek called on rowdy fans to stay quiet and behave themselves during rallies just minutes clinching a three-hour victory over Naomi Osaka on Wednesday night n the second round of the French Open in Paris.

In an on-court interview with former player Alex Corretja,Swiatek said as she looked at the crowds on Court Philippe Chatrier: "You know I love you guys and I love playing here but please don't call out."

Choking back tears of exhaustion after her ordeal in which she saved a match point against the former world number one, she added: "The players are trying to focus and perform at our best to please you. You've paid money and we're playing for money and a point here and there can make all the difference."

Swiatek came into the 2024 tournament as the overwhelming favourite following back-to-back titles  on the clay courts in Madrid and Rome to emulate the feats of Serena Williams in 2013.

Osaka idolised the American and at moments during the encounter, there were fragrances of vintage Serena: brutal first serves followed by clean winners or unexpected bludgeons from the deep court.

After coming back from a break down in the opening set to level at 4-4, Osaka's backhand went absent during the tiebreak – it lost her five points as Swiatek waltzed the shoot-out seven points to one.

But Osaka returned from a toilet break to batter Swiatek. She won the second set 6-1 and continued her roll to open up a 3-0 lead in the decider

Swiatek got on the board but Osaka ploughed on to 4-1 and had a point that would have given her a 5-1 lead with her serve to follow.

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Swiatek warded off the danger to trail 2-4.
That rapidly became 5-2 to Osaka as the centre court crowd cheered the player whose four Grand Slam tournament titles have come on the hard courts at the Australian Open in Melbourne and US Open in New York.

Swiatek held onto her service to force the Japanese star – at 5-3 up – to serve for a place in the third round.

But after fending off a break point, Osaka conjured up a match point. But she fluffed it when a backhand drive slumped into the net.

Two more errors off that wing conceded the game and Swiatek drew level at 5-5 a few minutes later to continue an enthralling tussle in front of a barely half-full arena.

For all her powerful serving, Osaka conceded the decisive break following her fourth double fault.

And nearly 30 minutes after serving to prevent her demise, Swiatek was preparing to seize an unlikely victory.

After sending a backhand into the tramlines, the 22-year-old Pole notched up the next four points to claim the spoils 7-6, 1-6, 7-5 after two hours and 57 minutes.

"I did not always feel I was here on the court," Swiatek told Corretja. "I was really close to losing but I kept going forwards and hoped my game would come back."

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