Iga Swiatek is making serene progress as she defends her US Open title, but former Wimbledon champion Marion Batoli has told Tennis365 that the biggest threat to her hopes may not come on the court.
The world No 1 thrashed Slovakian qualifier and her close friend Kaja Juvan 6-0 6-1 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, with the scale of her dominance highlighting her ruthless streak.
Juvan did at least avoid the dreaded ‘double-bagel’, finally getting a game on the board 40 minutes into the match for 3-1 in the second and raising her arms aloft in mock triumph to the acclaim of the Louis Armstrong crowd.
But it was only delaying the inevitable, with Swiatek wrapping up another clinical, statement victory – she beat Rebecca Peterson by the same scoreline in the first round – in well under an hour.
“I didn’t like that I was winning with my best friend but I knew I had to be focused and not think about that,” said Swiatek.
“It’s like playing your sister. I don’t have many friends and she’s my best friend so that was the toughest, for sure.”
This was another dominant performance from Swiatek, yet former top ten star Bartoli believes the Polish star may be tested later in the event when the noise levels increase in the stands.
Picking out Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina as her biggest rivals in New York, 2013 Wimbledon champion Bartoli believes the raucous atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the second week of the tournament may not be to her liking.
“You have to put Iga as the top pick, as she is in every Grand Slam, but it’s difficult to defend a title,” said Bartoli, speaking exclusively to Tennis365 in her role as a Sky Sports pundit.
“She has done it at Roland Garros and that will give her the platform to do it again at the US Open, but this tournament is very loud, it is an electric atmosphere. This is not something she likes too much.
“She likes it to be quiet and to stay in her focus, so it is definitely a challenge for her. We will see if she can master it again this year.
“Between her and Sabalenka, it is fair to say they are the two that stand out, even though (Elena) Rybakina is in the mix. When she gets her big ground strokes together and swings freely, that’s when she is dangerous.
“Coca Gauff is also a player many people are picking to win it, but she could play Iga in the quarter-finals.
“Coco has a new status now; winning in Cincinnati and Washington and she is one of the favourites to win the whole thing.
“For sure, we all see an Iga vs Coco rematch in the quarter-finals and for sure, Coco call pull off the upset.”
Bartoli is in New York working for Sky Sports and she has relished the chance to see one of her old opponents return to the game, with Caroline Wozniacki shining at the US Open after he surprise comeback.
“Every year there are a lot of surprises,” added Batroli. “Last year it was Caroline Garcia who played really well from Cincinnati onwards and she had a shot to win it as well.
“With women’s tennis, it’s very difficult to have a prediction and I was really excited to see Caroline Wozniacki come back. She is one I played against so many times and it is great to see her coming back.”
The US Open is back on Sky Sports and NOW with access to all court feeds.
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