World No.1 Iga Swiatek has given her Wimbledon rivals a shot in the arm after conceding she still finds grass to play at the All England Club “quite tricky”.
The Polish superstar was eager to play down expectations at Wimbledon after battling to a hard-fought 6-4 4-6 6-3 win over Dutch qualifier Pattinama Kerkhove in just over two hours.
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That was despite the French Open champion extending her stunning winning streak to 37 games in a feat not seen in 25 years since Martina Hingis achieved it in 1997.
Swiatek equaled the Swiss great’s personal best of 37 straight wins, which hasn’t been surpassed on the WTA Tour since Steffi Graf’s extraordinary run (66 straight wins) ended at the hands of Monica Seles in 1990 .
Swiatek may have just won the French Open but has only played twice before at SW19, and admits she is still not home to play on the famous grass surface.
“Honestly during a game I don’t even think about the previous games and the streak because I don’t think it gives me anything in that moment,” the 21-year-old said.
“It is sure that my confidence, I build it during this season. It’s better. It gets better and better with each tournament.
“I would say the grass is quite tricky for me. I’m not going to lie. I mean, I guess you can see that maybe I don’t play as effectively as I do on other surfaces.
“Basically, my confidence is improving overall. But this tournament is tricky and I still don’t know how to play the best game here.
Alize Cornet, who suggested this week that she suspected a number of players had Covid-19 at Roland Garros but hid it, is next for Swiatek in the third round.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek saw one of her potential championship rivals go out at the start of day four after Wimbledon 2021 runner-up Karolina Pliskova suffered a shock loss to Britain’s Katie Boulter.
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Boulter had beaten the sixth seed at Eastbourne last week but still upset the odds with a 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4 success on center court.
The British hopeful’s victory, which propelled her into the round of 16 at the All England Club for the first time, came two days after the death of her grandmother.
“I tried to vent my emotions and deal with the situation, I tried to keep my head on the tennis,” Boulter said.
“I was lucky because my grandfather managed to come over from Leicester, so we were able to keep him company and continue to support him at the same time.”
Heading for a potential collision course with Swiatek was Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who surged in the third round with a 6-2 6-2 maiming of American qualifier Catherine Harrison.
Showing no signs of giving in to the pressure of filling retired reigning champion Ash Barty’s impossible shoes, the 29-year-old had too much firepower for Harrison, seeing off the Wimbledon debutant in an hour and 26 minutes.
The world No. 45 is yet to drop a set this campaign, conceding just nine games en route to the last 32, where she will face 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Provided Swiatek overcomes his third-round clash, the Polish star will face the winner of the showdown between Tomljanovic and Krejcikova in the round of 16.
Elsewhere, Serena Williams conqueror Harmony Tan will face local favorite Boulter after beating Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Heather Watson was another British winner on day four after needing eight minutes to seal an overnight victory over China’s Wang Qiang.
There were tears on Court Two after Simona Halep, who won here in 2019, sent Kirsten Flipkens to retirement with a 7-5 6-4 victory.
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