World No.1 women's tennis player Iga Swaitek was stretched all the way by Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen in the fourth round of the French Open, before the Pole rallied for a three-set win to set up a quarterfinal clash with American Jessica Pegula.
The former winner at Roland Garros dropped her first set in more than a month against Zheng, but rallied for a 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 win inside Court Philippe-Chatrier to extend her unbeaten run to 32 consecutive matches.
Swiatek last lost a set on April 23, when she was taken the distance by Liudmila Samsonovaof Russia in the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. She was pushed hard by the 19-year-old Zheng in an opening set that lasted a gruelling 82 minutes.
The Chinese saved five set points, and rallied from 5-2 deficits in both the set and the ensuing tiebreak.
"I tried to loosen up my hand a little bit. She (Zheng) played really good tennis with heavy topspins. The key in the second set was kind of not letting her do that again. I'm pretty happy that I could play a little bit faster and put pressure on her. I felt like I was a little bit in trouble, and I was able to come back and really refocus and find other solutions, so that's great," conceded Swiatek, the 2020 champion at Roland Garros.
Zheng seemed to be tiring in the second set after the gruelling first set. After losing the first three games, she took a medical timeout and emerged with her right upper leg heavily wrapped. Zheng revealed after the match that she was dealing with stomach trouble.
"I got really pained stomach and I try my best, but it's just, in the second and third set, I couldn't, I didn't have power to scream one, "Come on," even and it was really tough," Zheng was quoted as saying by wtatennis.com.
"I want to fight, I really, really want to fight, but I just don't have power and it was really tough. I couldn't show my tennis today in the second and third set, even in the first set, I'm really not happy with my performance.
"The leg was, it was also tough. That compared to the stomach was easy ... If I don't talk about today, I'm happy with my performance all this run. To play against the No. 1 in the world, I feel really I enjoy on the court. If I don't have my stomach, I think I could enjoy more, like to run better and to hit more harder, to give more effort on court.
"It's pity that I couldn't give that what I want to give today. I just want, the next time I play against her, I have perfect shape and go for the next fight," added Zheng.
Following the 2 hour, 45-minute slugfest, Swiatek will face 11th-seeded American Jessica Pegula. Pegula rallied for a three-set win over Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, to reach the last eight in Paris for the first time.
Pegula had previously never won a set against Begu. The Romanian won their first two meetings, including at the WTA 250 in Melbourne to start this season. She's one of three American players to reach the quarterfinals, as Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff will play in the last eight in the bottom half.