Iga Swiatek secured a straight-sets victory against home player Mai Hontama in the opening round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open but her victory was not plain sailing.
The World No. 2 secured the win in her first-ever clash with Hontama 6-4, 7-5. However, Swiatek did not get off to an easy start and the World No. 148 continued to make it difficult for her throughout the match.
The Polish player found herself a break down in the early stages of the match, committing more unforced errors and struggling to keep up with Hontama’s aggressive playing style. However, Swiatek managed to break back to bring the first set to 4-4.
A “topsy-turvy” match
After this, things started to go Swiatek’s way as she went on to win five games in a row to take the first set 6-4. However, it was clear how much Hontama had troubled her in the early stages of the match due to the fact that the opening set alone took almost an hour to conclude.
Comparatively, the four-time Grand Slam champion won her entire first-round match against Rebecca Peterson in under an hour at the US Open earlier this month.
The start of the second set saw a determined Swiatek get the break at 3-1, before securing a double break to take a 5-1 lead. At this point, the match looked done and dusted with the 22-year-old serving for the set. However, Hontama was not done with challenging her opponent just yet.
The battle of the comebacks
Trailing 5-1, Hontama gave everything she had to break Swiatek as she served for the set. From there, the Japanese player seemed to dominate play for several games, with several unforced errors from Swiatek helping her to a 40-0 hold in her next service game.
Swiatek was still up a break and many thought this would be the end of Honatama’s resilient comeback. They were proved wrong though, after a double fault from the tennis star gave Hontama a 30-15 lead, before the 24-year-old’s quick decision making saw her win a third game in a row and break back again to level the set at 5-5.
Nevertheless, Swiatek was ultimately able to find a way through, although it was a much more difficult match for her than many were expecting it to be.
A ripper of a forehand from the former World No. 1 saw Hontama almost hit a ball boy as she tried to save the point. An unforced error from the latter then saw Swiatek hold her serve and secure a tiebreak at the very least. However, this proved to be unnecessary as she proceeded to break Honatama again in the next game to book her place in the second round.