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French Open: Iga Swiatek begins her title defence with victory on her 20th birthday

Swiatek celebrated her 20th birthday by kicking off her French Open title defence with 6-0 7-5 victory over her best friend Kaja Juvan; the eighth seed now takes on Sweden's Rebecca Peterson in round two

Poland's Iga Swiatek reacts after winning a point to Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova, during their final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Image: Iga Swiatek is bidding to become the first woman since Justin Henin in 2007 to defend the French Open title

Defending champion Iga Swiatek celebrated her 20th birthday by kicking off her French Open campaign with a straight sets success over Kaja Juvan at Roland Garros.

Swiatek enjoyed the perfect preparation ahead of her title defence with victory at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome a fortnight ago, producing a devastating display of tennis to double bagel Karolina Pliskova 6-0 6-0 in just 46 minutes.

The Pole appeared poised to inflict a similar fate on her best friend Juvan on a sun-bathed Philippe Chatrier court - racing to the opening set without reply in 23 minutes.

This extended Swiatek's winning sequence to 20 consecutive games on the clay, but her Slovenian opponent rallied impressively, opening her account with a hold to love early in set two.

The defending champion looked to be closing in on an emphatic victory after moving 3-1 ahead in the second, but after breaking straight back, Juvan saved two break points - firing in her first ace and producing a glorious cross-court backhand winner to level at three apiece.

The pair exchanged holds until Swiatek survived a major scare at 5-5, with Juvan unable to capitalise on two break points in an elongated service game, and this gave the eighth seed the necessary impetus to seal her progression.

Juvan led 40-0 as she fought to force a tie-break, but the Pole produced a series of well-constructed points to set up a match-winning opportunity.

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The Slovenian battled valiantly to save three match points, but Swiatek was not to be denied, wrapping up a 6-0 7-5 victory on her fourth match point to set up a second-round clash against Sweden's Rebecca Peterson, who recovered from 7-6 and 5-2 adrift to defeat Shelby Rogers.

Swiatek became an overnight sensation after stunning fourth seed Sofia Kenin to lift the title in October - becoming the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title, and the lowest-ranked woman to lift the Suzanne-Lenglen cup in Paris.

Poland's Iga Swiatek plays a return to Slovenia's Kaja Juvan during their first round match on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, Monday, May 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Image: The Pole celebrated her birthday by collecting a bouquet of flowers before being serenaded on court

She spoke about her desire to implement psychology into her game ahead of her French Open defence, and she was certainly forced to display resilience in the closing stages against Juvan.

"In the second set it was really really hard," the 20-year-old told reporters. "[Juvan] used every chance she had basically.

"She didn't give me any birthday gifts. I'm really happy I could win those important points and just step-by-step go further."

Bianca Andreescu of Canada reacts in their ladies singles first round match against Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia on day two of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on May 31, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Image: Bianca Andreescu suffered an abdominal injury in the Internationaux de Strasbourg tournament just before the start of Roland Garros

Sixth seed Bianca Andreescu became the biggest casualty of the women's first round so far, losing an epic battle with Tamara Zidansek.

Canadian Andreescu has been held back by repeated injury problems since winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2019.

She won the first set against Slovenian Zidansek but eventually went down 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-2) 9-7 after three hours and 20 minutes.

Former semi-finalists Kiki Bertens and Alize Cornet were both condemned to opening-round exits at Roland Garros.

Bertens' struggles following her Achilles surgery continued as she succumbed in three sets to Slovenia's Polona Hercog, while Cornet was beaten 6-4 6-4 by her compatriot Harmony Tan - a wildcard entrant ranked 149th in the world.

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