In the latest edition of Players’ Voice, Iga Swiatek shares how she’s adjusting to life as a Grand Slam champion, her reaction to the passionate Polish support she received, and her imminent return to Roland-Garros…
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When I won in Paris, I had this totally overwhelming feeling which stayed with me for the first few weeks afterwards as well. I couldn’t actually allow myself to believe that I had won a Grand Slam! I definitely needed some time to look at everything from a distance and just rest because everything was pretty hectic after the final and when I returned to Poland. Suddenly I started to become very popular, which was really special but also the wildest situation.
The moment Federer closed out epic comeback against Haas at 2009 French Open
You don’t have big moments like that often in Poland - there was Agnieszka Radwańska (former WTA world No.2) and I remember reading about her achievements and watching her on YouTube, but I was pretty young at the time. It was just a completely new experience for me which I had to learn to deal with on my own but I think I handled things pretty well.
At first, I found it quite hard to refocus on my training but luckily Roland-Garros was my last tournament of the season which meant I had nearly four months of cooling down and preparation. The first time I started to feel a sense of ‘normal’ was actually during quarantine in Australia, which goes to show that I needed a lot of time to readjust and resettle.
As the 2021 season started, I struggled a little with my own expectations because I’m pretty ambitious and wanted to play every match like I did in Paris, but that’s just impossible! I had the perfect two weeks then but I needed to be realistic with myself that I’m not going to be in the same shape for the whole year. As soon as I let go of some of that pressure, I began to perform better and better, and during the week I won Adelaide, I managed to distance myself from those expectations and just enjoyed being on court - that’s when I was able to play my best tennis.
Iga Swiatek celebrates with her team after winning the Adelaide International in February
Image credit: Getty Images
Usually when I feel like the pressure is overwhelming me, it comes from my own thoughts rather than from the outside. In 2019, I started to work with a psychologist (Daria Abramowicz) and she now travels with me on tour. We’ve been working a lot on preparation for Roland-Garros but honestly, I have no idea how I will feel when I play there again. A part of me feels that I will be more confident because of what happened last time, but I haven’t experienced what it’s like to defend a title before. We’re trying to approach it like we would do any other tournament because if I put too much emphasis on the fact that I won it last time, I think it would really stress me out! All I can say is that I love playing in Paris and, whatever happens, I know it will be okay. If I were to make a quarter-final, I would still see that as a big success, even if people are expecting more of me.
It’s sometimes easy to dwell on expectations like that - regardless if they belong to others or myself. Some weeks, I can block them out and escape to my own bubble - like a safe place in my head - but sometimes it just hits you. That’s when I need to send kinder thoughts to myself and remember that it’s still a very new situation and actually Roland-Garros was only seven months ago. I think it takes much more time and studying of your mind and your attitude to consistently enter that bubble, but hopefully the results I had in Adelaide and Rome show that I am on the right track.
During those tournaments, I saw so many amazing comments on social media from fans back home and I can really feel their support. It means the world to me that my work has been seen and tennis is more popular in Poland right now!
After Paris and Wimbledon, we will have the Olympics and I can’t wait to represent my country. Like Roland-Garros, I’m trying to approach it as if it’s a normal tournament, but it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and become fixated on the fact that it only takes place once in every four years and it could be your only chance to perform well. I want to eliminate any risk of getting there and feeling anxious, so I am trying to maintain the mindset that it’s the same tennis we play like any other week; it takes place on the same court and the same rules apply. Believing that is easier said than done but I think that’s really important.
My Dad (Tomasz Swiatek) is a former Olympic rower (competing in the men’s quadruple sculls event at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul) and I would love him to travel with me there if Covid restrictions allow that opportunity. It would probably be one of his dreams to share that experience and relive the Olympics once again, although in a slightly different way this time round!
Tomasz Swiatek at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games
Image credit: Getty Images
My family has been so supportive of my whole journey so far and I love spending time with them. Even though I feel a lot has changed since October, I am still the same person. On the court I feel more experienced and confident, but at home things are very much the same. I am still living at my parents’ house and, after a busy but very exciting summer ahead, I will be very excited to return home.
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Follow Iga Swiatek on Instagram (@iga.swiatek) and Twitter (@iga_swiatek).
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