World no.1 Iga Swiatek has made a rollicking start to the US Open. She is defending her crown at Flushing Meadows and in her quest to bring home her fifth grand slam, she has steamrolled opponents in the first two rounds. She even served Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson a bagel, Swiatek’s 82nd of her career, in the process.
It would have taken someone special to defeat the 22-year-old Polish prodigy in the third round. Maybe someone close enough to her to understand her strengths and weaknesses would complete the task. Slovenian Kaja Juvan, her opponent in the third round, has spent many years playing alongside Swiatek, including winning a doubles gold in the Brazil Youth Olympics. The pair have grown close to each other over the years with Swiatek referring to Juvan as her ‘best friend’.
Iga Swiatek defeats ‘best friend’ Kaja Juvan to reach US Open fourth round
Before the match, both Iga Swiatek and Kaja Juvan made it clear that they were looking to play professional tennis by setting aside their friendship in the pursuit of a place in the fourth round.
Iga Swiatek, who was primed by many to topple the world no.145 Juvan, was in devastating form since the start of the match. She wasted no time to break the Slovenian and then took control of the game and forced her opponent into making errors. The first set was a breeze for the Swiatek who delivered yet another bagel to Juvan, bringing her career tally of bagels to 83.
Juvan was determined to not experience the drubbing of the first set and fought hard in the second. When she claimed a game back to make it 3-1 in favour of Swiatek, the crowd went wild and cheered for the Slovenian. However, Swiatek stormed back to claim the second set and the match 6-0 6-1 in one of the most lopsided contests in tennis history. The game lasted for a mere 49 minutes, and Juvan managed just 15 points against her close friend.
Talking about her ruthless game, Swiatek said “Overall the level and discipline was high. I was being professional.”
“When you play these long, physical matches you have to take good care. I have had days off when I relax. It helped me to have more energy before the match.”
When asked about her status as one of the world’s best female tennis players, Swiatek was humble in response. “Honestly, I kind of have to learn to find more joy in that,” she added.
“I talked with Roger [Federer] about that last week. He says the best way to approach it is to really embrace it, to be proud and happy about your results. I’m always looking to the future, trying to do the best job another day, so I’m glad I have people on my team who kind of remind me of the good work that I’m doing. It’s good to appreciate the process and the progress.”
Iga Swiatek is looking unstoppable in the path to winning her second US Open title. She has dropped just 9 games out of a possible 36 so far. She is set to face Latvian 20th seed tennis player Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round. Jelena defeated Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with the world no.1.
Iga Swiatek speaks on defeating her ‘best friend’ Kaja Juvan
Kaja Juvan was 0-2 in her head-to-head meetings with Swiatek prior to the match and had never reached the fourth round of a major. Their friendship meant that she could give it her best shot against Swiatek, no matter the result.
The chances of an upset happening vaporised after Swiatek blazed through the clash with ease and composure. Yet, once the match culminated the two ‘best friends’ embraced each other at the net with a warm hug that was reminiscent of their junior days playing together.
— Eurosport (@eurosport) September 1, 2023
When asked in her post-match interview if that there was anything she didn’t like about her game, Swiatek was sentimental about having defeated her close friend.
“Well, for sure I didn’t like the fact that I was winning against my best friend but I knew that I had to be really focused and not let myself think about that. It was like playing against a sister. We have played for so long. I don’t have many friends but she is my best friend. So, that was the toughest part for sure.”, Swiatek said.
“It wasn’t an easy a match for her. I just wanted to focus on myself but it was hard to do so because she is my best friend. I was professional. I feel bad because Kaja and me used to watch the TV show ‘Friends’ together.”, Swiatek added.
Iga Swiatek is seemingly undefeatable with the way she is bulldozing her way towards a second US Open title. What do you think about her clash with Kaja Juvan? Swiatek was unusually emotional before and after the match. And will she defend her crown at New York this year? Let us know in the comments section below.