Swiatek opens title defense with birthday victory

PARIS — Defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek picked up right where she left off last year in winning the title: running yet another opponent this way and that on the red clay of Roland Garros in a take-no-prisoners straight-sets victory Monday.

Her best friend on the tennis circuit, Kaja Juvan, was the victim on Court Philippe Chatrier this time as Swiatek emphatically kicked off her campaign to become the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to defend the French Open title.

Playing on her 20th birthday, Swiatek treated herself to a 6-0, 7-5 victory — her eighth straight-sets win in a row at Roland Garros, having also not dropped a set in winning the trophy last year as an unseeded 19-year-old.

In pre-tournament practice on the clay, Swiatek has tested her high-kicking forehand and double-handed backhand against the master of those arts at Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal.

Like the 13-time men’s champion, Swiatek used those tools to devastating effect against Juvan, particularly during a dominant first set in which Swiatek gave up just three points on serve — one of them a double fault.

Poland’s first Grand Slam singles champion faced more resistance in the second set as the 101st-ranked Slovenian settled and Swiatek went off the boil.

“She didn’t give me any birthday gifts,” Swiatek said.

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