Iga Swiatek - Miami Open 2023 and Rafael Nadal - Brisbane International 2024

Iga Swiatek responds to Rafael Nadal becoming an ambassador for the Saudi Arabian Tennis Federation

Iga Swiatek has won her first Grand Slam match of the season, beating 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin on Rod Laver Arena earlier today.

Swiatek twice found herself a break down in the first set, but fought back to beat her American opponent, 7-6(2) 6-2.

The Pole admitted that the match was not all plain-sailing, “It wasn’t the easiest first round. She played really well. I tried to find my rhythm, especially in the first set.

“I’m happy at the end of the set I could win the most important points. I’m happy that I am through and I could play a little bit better in the second set.”

In her press conference after the match, Swiatek was also asked about her idol, Rafael Nadal, becoming an ambassador for the Saudi Arabian Tennis Federation.

Nadal had released a video on social media, revealing that he wanted to help ‘grow’ tennis in the country that has attracted many new sports in recent years with big money offerings.

Saudi Arabia has a history of human rights violations, with some suggesting that they are using sportswashing to help cover over those tracks.

Swiatek highlighted this when speaking to the media, but did not want to go too much into Nadal’s new deal, “It’s hard for me to sum up in one sentence. It was always hard for me to say if it’s good or not because it’s not easy for women in these areas. Obviously, these countries also want to change and improve politically and sociologically.”

The world No.1 continued, “Also in terms of many events that were held, there were rumors about sportswashing. I have nothing to do with Rafa and his decisions, it should be up to the federations and the governing bodies who decide if we (the players) are going to play there or not.

“If there would be some negative backlash, they should take the responsibility. It’s hard to straightforwardly go one way and say anything. I don’t know if it’s a good decision or not.”

Swiatek’s main focus at the moment will be the Australian Open, with her second round match against Danielle Collins taking place on Thursday.

This is a rematch of the semi-final they had at the Melbourne major in 2022, where the American got the better of Swiatek in a straight sets victory.

Inside the baseline…

Saudi Arabia is becoming a more prominent nation in sport, and it was almost inevitable that the money was going to come over to tennis at some point. There have been rumours of both a Masters 1000 event and the WTA Finals being held in Saudi Arabia, so it would be interesting to see what Swiatek’s views would be on that. In terms of her first round, it was a good start for Swiatek in what looks to be a tricky draw ahead for the Pole.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.