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Swiatek saves match point to beat Osaka in thriller

Iga Swiatek clenches her fist at the French Open
Iga Swiatek has never lost before the fourth round at the French Open [Getty Images]

Defending champion Iga Swiatek saved a match point before beating Naomi Osaka to avoid the earliest French Open exit of her career in a second-round thriller in Paris.

The 22-year-old Pole, who is bidding for a third successive title, fought back to win 7-6 (7-1) 1-6 7-5.

Former world number one Osaka only returned to the sport four months ago after having daughter Shai and has previously struggled on clay.

However, the 26-year-old from Japan pushed top seed Swiatek all the way in an absorbing encounter under the Court Philippe Chatrier roof – but paid the price for not converting her chance.

"That was intense, more intense than I expected for a second-round match," said Swiatek.

"We played some amazing tennis."

Swiatek has developed into the WTA Tour's most dominant player since Serena Williams and her record on clay is particularly formidable.

Escaping defeat against Osaka - whose four major titles all came on hard courts - means Swiatek has lost just two of her 32 matches at Roland Garros.

She has only lost once on clay this season, having won back-to-back titles in Madrid and Rome before heading to Paris.

In contrast, Osaka has never been the most comfortable on the surface and described herself last month as still being a "baby giraffe" on it.

However Osaka, who grew up playing on hard courts in New York and Florida, has been wholeheartedly embracing the challenge of adapting her game to the clay.

This was an example of how the world number 134 still possesses a hard-hitting game which can test the best.

"I was watching Iga win this tournament last year and I was pregnant. It was just my dream to be able to play her," said Osaka.

"When I kind of think of it like that, I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm also just trying not to be too hard on myself.

"I feel like I played her on her better surface. I'm a hard-court kid, so I would love to play her on my surface and see what happens."

Osaka bamboozled Swiatek with her sheer power and fearless returning, cracking winners off both wings with ease.

She was a point away from a 5-1 lead in the deciding set and, despite being unable to take that by putting a backhand into the net, still retained a commanding position as she closed in on a memorable victory.

But she became tight when serving out for the match at 5-3, missing three short balls on the way to handing back the break with a long backhand.

The edginess continued when a double fault on break point allowed Swiatek the opportunity to serve out victory.

Swiatek executed her shots when it mattered and was visibly relieved to avoid her first exit before the fourth round.

It preserves her bid to become only the third woman to win three successive French Open titles in the Open era after Monica Seles (1990-92) and Justine Henin (2005-07).

Jabeur survives scare to reach third round

Ons Jabeur celebrates victory
Ons Jabeur has lost all three Grand Slam finals she has contested (Wimbledon 2022 and 2023, US Open 2022) [Getty Images]

Eighth seed Ons Jabeur survived a scare against Colombian Camila Osorio to reach the third round.

The 29-year-old Tunisian, a quarter-finalist last year, struggled for consistency in a match which saw 12 breaks of serve.

But, after Osorio had twice broken back in the deciding set, Jabeur held her nerve to serve out a 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory.

Jabeur, seeking her maiden Grand Slam title, will meet Canadian 31st seed Leylah Fernandez or China's Wang Xiyu next.

The three-time Grand Slam runner-up made the perfect start on Court Suzanne Lenglen, establishing a 3-0 lead with an early break.

Jabeur eventually took the first set following a run of four successive breaks - but 22-year-old Osorio mounted an impressive response in the second as her opponent faltered to swiftly level the match.

It was Jabeur who struck the first blow of the deciding set, yet twice the spirited Osorio responded to frustrate the world number nine.

However, Jabeur was able to refocus and after breaking Osorio again in the eighth game she served out the win at the first opportunity, the relief evident in her celebrations after coming through a testing encounter.

Later, American Coco Gauff beat Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek 6-3 6-4.

Third seed Gauff, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2022, will take on Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska or China's Wang Yafan next.