Tennis-Swiatek begins French Open defence against best friend Juvan


FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates with the trophy after winning the Italian Open final against Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

(Reuters) - Iga Swiatek returns to the scene of her biggest triumph on Monday when she starts her French Open defence against unseeded Kaja Juvan, while Serena Williams will resume her quest for a 24th major in the night session on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Swiatek, who turns 20 on Monday, was catapulted into the spotlight at Roland Garros last year when she became Poland's first Grand Slam singles champion and the youngest woman to capture the title in Paris since Monica Seles in 1992.

She arrives as the in-form player, having broken into the top 10 of the world rankings on the back of a 6-0 6-0 thrashing of former number one Karolina Pliskova in the Rome final this month.

Swiatek expects a tricky test against Juvan, however, with their close friendship complicating matters.

"It's not easy to play against your best friend. It wasn't nice to see that (in the draw) because one of us is going to lose," said Swiatek, who beat Juvan when the pair met in Melbourne this year.

"We know each other's game pretty well, so the most important thing is to really be prepared in terms of tactics. For sure that match in February has given me more confidence."

Williams has been stuck on 23 major titles since 2017 and appears to be running out of time in her bid to equal Margaret Court's all-time record.

The 39-year-old has played only three matches - at tournaments in Rome and Parma - ahead of her French opener against Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu.

Roger Federer will also seek to roll back the years against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, though the Swiss has already ruled out winning the title in his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2020 Australian Open following knee surgery.

Elsewhere in the women's draw, 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko faces fourth-seeded American Sofia Kenin, while 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza meets Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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