Iga Swiatek: Pressure And Expectations

Iga Swiatek (photo: @ASICSTennis/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, February 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Iga Swiatek comes into the Australian Open, the first major of the new year, as the most recent Grand Slam champion after winning Roland Garros last October. Being a major champion has its perks – endorsements and recognition, better court assignments – but it also has its drawbacks. The 19-year-old Polish champion is learning fast how to deal with the ups and downs of it all.

“I’m just giving myself time. I know that it’s hard sometimes to be back on tour after a win like that, after the first Grand Slam. Hopefully, I’m going to take it well,” says the World No. 17 Swiatek.

Swiatek spoke at her first Australian Open press conference on Saturday and the media was eager to learn what’s on the mind of the reigning French Open champion.

“I just want to, you know, enjoy being on the court, just want to play my tennis,” said Swiatek, who compiled a 13-5 win-loss record last season. “It feels little bit different on court because I feel like people are not treating me as an underdog any more, and I have to adjust to that.”

During her French fortnight run to lifting the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen, Swiatek dropped just 28 game over seven matches. She raised a few eyebrows by dominating Simona Halep in the fourth round, winning 6-1, 6-2, and her 6-4, 6-1 win over Sofia Kenin in the title match was simply amazing.

When Swiatek was asked by a reporter what has been the biggest surprise about life as a major champion, she said: “The biggest surprise actually isn’t really positive.

“I was always imagining that when I’m going to win a grand slam, I’m going to just enjoy it for the rest of my life, it’s going to be rainbows everywhere. I’m going to be some kind of at peace in myself that I already won a grand slam and I reached my goal.

“The truth is that humans aren’t like that: they just want more. I feel expectations even though I did something great at the French Open. I want more, basically. I feel more pressure and expectations. I also feel that it’s hard to prepare for that moment.”

After her French Open triumph, Swiatek went home to Poland, skipping season-ending tournaments in Ostrava and Linz. She was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit by the president for services to her country, and also was runner up in Poland’s sportsperson of the year. Swiatek became easily recognized in public.

Upon arriving in Melbourne, Swiatek’s quarantine hitting partner was World No. 5 Elina Svitolina. “Whoa! I’m playing with such a player and we’re playing on the same level,” she exclaimed. “Wow! That’s great. I feel really good about myself.”

In her return to the WTA Tour this week, Swiatek beat her best friend on tour, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, then lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 6-4, 6-2, in the second round of the Gippsland Trophy tune-up.

Obviously, the first tournament of the year isn’t easy. I didn’t gain much confidence after these two matches that I played,” Swiatek admitted. “Even though they weren’t like the best ones – and I wasn’t playing my best tennis – I think it’s going to be easier during the Australian Open to just remember how to be in competition and how to focus on matches. It’s different than practicing. Even though I was practicing and sparring and playing points, it’s not the same.”

Seeded 15th in the Australian Open, Swiatek will face No. 74 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands in the first round on 1573 Arena Monday afternoon. Rus beat Swiatek last year on clay in Rome. This time, they’ll play on a hard-court surface. Swiatek is in the lower half of the women’s draw and in Halep’s quarter.

“I feel more pressure and expectations,” said Swiatek, who could face Halep in a highly-anticipated fourth-round skirmish next week. “I also feel that it’s hard, like, to prepare for that moment. I have to kind of look back on what happened since [the] French Open and work with that right now; kind of go back to my roots and just enjoy playing tennis, not think about other stuff.

“I’m trying to enjoy that I’m here. Forget about the tournament, forget about my practices, just living in the moment and being happy that I can travel and I can be here.”

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What they’re saying

Stan Wawrinka on preparing for the Australian Open: “Yeah, I’m feeling okay. I’m feeling ready to start the tournament. I didn’t have the best preparation, but since I arrive[d] here, I’ve been practicing well, I’ve been getting back on shape little by little. So, I’m excited to start the tournament.”


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A post shared by Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka85)

What they’re sharing on social media

Elina Svitolina / Debuts her new Nike AO hit