Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2024, Iga Swiatek - Indian Wells 2024

Iga Swiatek reveals how Rafael Nadal ‘inspired’ her

Iga Swiatek made a winning start to her Roland Garros title defence yesterday, and she paid tribute to 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal after the match.

Swiatek began her campaign at the Paris major against French qualifier Leolia Jeanjean, winning 6-1 6-2 to extend her winning streak to 13 matches.

Coming into this tournament the Pole had won both titles in Madrid and Rome, with Swiatek suggesting that these victories have provided her with a lot of confidence ahead of the second major of the year.

“This last tournament gave me a lot, and I managed to play good tennis in any conditions, so I’m really proud of myself,” said Swiatek in her on-court interview. “Even though I’m pretty confident, I’m not taking anything for granted. Every tournament is a different story and chapter, so I’m trying to focus on the next round and do everything step by step.”

Swiatek has won three of the last four singles titles at Roland Garros, and was asked about whether she saw herself as the ‘Queen of Clay’, in a similar vein to the aforementioned Nadal.

However, the 22-year-old suggested that she needed more success to establish that sort of label, “I think it’s too early, for sure I’m really proud of these achievements, this has always been my favourite surface.”

The world No.1 appeared on Court Philippe-Chatrier again yesterday, watching her idol Nadal in what could be his final ever match at Roland Garros.

And in her press conference, Swiatek paid tribute to the Spaniard, “He [Nadal] taught me that always fighting till the end and not giving up is the best way to go.”

She continued, “It just increases your chances that you might win. There’s no point in working hard and giving everything to play well rather than to give up at the end.

“He managed to turn around some matches that it seemed impossible to turn around. That really inspired me. But also how he is off the court; he’s really humble and really focused on the work. It seems that success didn’t change him. I just like the person he is overall.”

While Nadal’s Roland Garros may be over for at least this year, Swiatek now moves onto the second round where she will play fellow four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka.

Swiatek was also keen to pay credit to her opponent, describing Osaka as ‘a great person’, “Really impressed [with Osaka]. I think she’s a great person, and her game style is pretty fun to watch as well.

“I haven’t actually played against Naomi obviously on clay, so we’ll see how that’s gonna go. We need to prepare tactically, for sure. But all these matches that we played on hard courts were always really intense and tough. I’m just glad that she came back and she’s playing more tournaments even than before the break… happy that she’s playing well.”

Swiatek and Osaka will play their second round Roland Garros match tomorrow, with both players having a win apiece from their two previous meetings on hard courts.

Inside the baseline…

Iga Swiatek has always been very relatable as a big Rafael Nadal fan, with her quotes from yesterday backing this up. In some ways it almost feels as though Swiatek is continuing Nadal’s dominance at the Paris major, and while it may be too early to compare the two it does feel as though the Pole has potential to build up a similar record at the tournament. And although there is a lot of hype surrounding the Swiatek and Osaka matchup, it is difficult to see anything other than a win for the former as it is on a clay court.

READ NEXT – Rafael Nadal: I’m not saying I’m retiring today

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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.