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Defending champion Swiatek starstruck before meeting Nadal at Roland Garros
© afp.com/Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

Defending champion Swiatek starstruck before meeting Nadal at Roland Garros

Published by , Monday 05/31/21 13:54

She may be the reigning French Open champion, but Iga Swiatek said she had to "write some small topics" of conversation down before practising with Rafael Nadal ahead of her title defence this week.

The Pole, who celebrated her 20th birthday with a 6-0, 7-5 win over good friend Kaja Juvan in the first round on Monday, practised with 13-time Roland Garros winner Nadal for the first time.

"It was great. It wasn't a surprise because I had to prepare," said Swiatek.

"Write some small topics, not to have awkward silence. But Rafa is really, really great. He's a really nice guy. Even though I am pretty introverted, it was really fun for me.

"Obviously I got to feel his forehand, which was great, and his top-spin.

"That was a whole new experience for me. It gave me a lot of positive energy. It was really a huge inspiration for me."

It is the first time the world number nine has defended a WTA title, although she has won two more tournaments since her breakthrough in Paris seven months ago, including the prestigious Italian Open.

"I tried to put it behind me and kind of use it in a positive way because I just know that I'm feeling good here," said Swiatek, who was presented with flowers on court after the match for her birthday.

"Obviously it's different. It's more stressful a little bit.

"But still, first rounds are always tricky, so I wouldn't say that the stress level was much, much higher. I had to basically just do little bit of more work mentally to stay focused just on tennis."

Swiatek will face Sweden's Rebecca Peterson in the second round.

The first set was the eighth seed's third straight bagel after thumping Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the Rome final earlier this month, which saw her break into the world's top 10.

Juvan put up much more of a fight in the second set, though, battling back from 3-1 down before missing two break points in the 11th game.

But her resistance ended shortly afterwards, as Swiatek came back from 40-0 down in the next game and secured victory on her fourth match point in the sunshine on Court Philippe Chatrier.

"In the second set it was really hard, she didn't give me any birthday gifts," added Swiatek.

"So I'm really happy I could win those important points."

Source: AFP