PARIS: World number one Iga Swiatek was the only top 10 seed left standing at the French Open on Saturday after racking up her 31st straight win as third seed Paula Badosa and seventh-ranked Aryna Sabalenka crashed out in the third round.
Swiatek, the 2020 champion, dropped serve three times against 95th-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro before sealing a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
Kovinic recovered from 1-4 down in the second set to lead 5-4 but the Pole steadied with a hold and a break before serving out for victory.
“I wanted to play really aggressively but sometimes I felt I was hitting with too much power and it was hard to control,“ said 20-year-old Swiatek.
Swiatek's winning streak is the best on tour since Serena Williams's 34 successive victories in 2013.
Swiatek next faces Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen who made the last 16 on her debut when French veteran Alize Cornet, playing in her 61st consecutive Grand Slam, retired with a leg injury, trailing 6-0, 3-0 after just 44 minutes.
Having stunned 2018 champion Simona Halep in the second round, Zheng becomes only the fourth Chinese woman to make the last 16 in Paris where compatriot Li Na won her landmark Slam title in 2011.
“I did everything I had to do. I always knew I had the level to do well, now I just want to keep going,“ said the 19-year-old Zheng.
Spain's Badosa, who made the quarter-finals in 2021, retired from her last 32 match through injury when she was trailing Russia's Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 2-1.
Sabalenka, the seventh seed, slipped to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 defeat to Italy's Camila Giorgi who is into the fourth round for the first time.
11 set points wasted
Nine of the top 10 men are still in contention.
On Saturday, world number two Daniil Medvedev eased through by defeating Serbian 28th seed Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Medvedev has not dropped a set in three rounds and will play former US Open champion Marin Cilic or 37-year-old Frenchman Gilles Simon for a place in the last eight.
The Russian fell in the opening round on his first four trips to Paris before reaching the quarter-finals a year ago.
“It was really hard, everyone was asking how I could be number two in the world without getting past the first round,“ said the US Open champion who has won 12 of his 13 career titles on hard courts.
Mackenzie McDonald, the 60th-ranked American, slipped to defeat against Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner after managing to squander 11 set points in the second set.
Sinner, a quarter-finalist in 2020, triumphed 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 and will face seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev for a last eight spot.
“I am not 100 percent but I found a solution,“ said the 20-year-old Sinner who played with strapping below his left knee.
Rublev, also a quarter-finalist two years ago, defeated Chile's Cristian Garin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (13/11).
Garin saved three match points in the fourth set while Rublev saved five set points in the tiebreak.
Fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 runner-up to Novak Djokovic and who is seeded to face Medvedev in the semi-finals, has endured a troubled two rounds.
He had to come back from two sets down to beat Italy's Lorenzo Musetti and then needed four hours and four sets to see off 134th-ranked qualifier Zdenek Kolar.
Tsitsipas faces unseeded Mikael Ymer of Sweden, the world number 95 who arrived at the tournament on a seven-match losing streak, stretching back to a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev in Montpellier in February.
However, Ymer has rediscovered his form in Paris, reaching the third round for a second successive season.
The third round also throws up two battles of tennis past and tennis future.
Holger Rune, just 19, faces 21-year-old Hugo Gaston. In stark contrast, 37-year-old Gilles Simon of France, playing on the tour for the final year, meets former US Open champion Marin Cilic, 33.
Now ranked 158, Simon, a former sixth-ranked player, has made the fourth round on three occasions having made his debut in 2005. - AFP