By Sudipto Ganguly
LONDON (Reuters) -World number one Iga Swiatek struggled with unforced errors but found her composure when it mattered most to see off Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-4 4-6 6-3 to reach the third round at Wimbledon and extend her winning run to 37 matches.
With Thursday’s victory, Swiatek went past Monica Seles and matched Martina Hingis’ run in the 1997 season. The all-time longest winning streak is held by Martina Navratilova, who had 74 successive victories in 1984.
“I mean adding another match to this number is pretty special for me but when I’m out there I’m not really thinking about that,” Swiatek said on court.
“I’m just trying to play the best tennis possible on grass and the result is going to come. I’m pretty happy that it’s 37 now. I’m going to do my best to get even more.”
Pattinama Kerkhove lost in the final round of qualifying at the grasscourt Grand Slam but was granted a berth in the main draw when Danka Kovinic withdrew with injury.
Playing against an opponent ranked in the top-10 for the first time in her career, the 30-year-old Dutchwoman came out swinging freely to put Swiatek under pressure on a sun-bathed Court One, as the Pole fell 4-2 behind.
The 2018 junior Wimbledon champion smiled in frustration at her errors as the crowd wondered if this could be the end of her incredible winning run which began in February on hardcourts, continued on clay and has reached the All England Club lawns.
Swiatek slipped and fell awkwardly behind the baseline while trying to hit a return as the 138th-ranked Pattinama Kerkhove broke her serve a second time.
But once Swiatek found her feet and range, it was one-way traffic. The 21-year-old, who has won six consecutive titles including a second French Open trophy, won the next four games to take opening set.
Pattinama Kerkhove, who reached the second round at Wimbledon last year for her best showing at the majors, would not give up though. She got the crucial break in the seventh game of the second set to level the match at 1-1.
But Swiatek, who committed 31 unforced errors, found her groove in the deciding set and nosed ahead with a break in the fourth game and then took a 4-1 lead. It proved enough as the top seed went on to win in two hours and four minutes.
Swiatek next meets Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, who earlier beat American Claire Liu 6-3 6-3, for a chance to match her best performance at Wimbledon where she reached the fourth round in 2021.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Ken Ferris)