Problem-solver Iga is up for the challenge

The world No.1 is eager to push back against her rivals in Paris

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, Media Day© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Some of Iga Swiatek’s invincible aura, created in 2022 when she rolled through Paris in the midst of what would turn out to be a mind-bending 37-match winning streak, has been chipped away methodically by rivals in 2023. 

Not to worry.

The world No.1 is taking the positives from adversity faced this season, and she’s eager to embrace the challenges presented by Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, the two players to defeat her on her beloved clay on the road to Roland-Garros earlier this spring. 

“A totally different situation than last year,” Swiatek admitted on Friday during Media Day in Paris.

Ever the student, the soon to be 22-year-old expresses a healthy appetite for the art of problem solving, and even throws out a heady comparison to the packed room of reporters in Roland-Garros’ main interview room.

“We also have to kind of come up with some different solutions sometimes, which is pretty exciting, because I never had that yet in my career,” she said. “I think this is what the Big Three had to do for sure when they played like 30 matches against each other, or even more."

In short, Swiatek says this to the challenge presented by her rivals: bring it on!

“I'm happy to learn some new stuff," she says. "And also, for sure, we are all working really hard to play better and better. It is an extra motivation, for sure.”


In search of a new fave

Speaking of the Big Three, Swiatek spoke about the absence of her idol Rafael Nadal from this year's tournament and said it will be hard to fill the shoes of the 14-time champion.

"I always cheered for him," she said. "This time he's not going to be here, so it's going to be a little bit harder for me to find my favourite."

Swiatek, who has twice been crowned champion in a year that Nadal won the tournament, says she hopes the Mallorcan is healthy and, most of all, happy.

"Hopefully he's gonna play next season or next tournaments and he's gonna feel better. That's the most important thing for me. Because I don't want to focus on statistics or what he could achieve by playing here. For me the most important thing is if he's just healthy and happy," she added.

Nadal Swiatek Roland-Garros 2021©Amélie Laurin / FFT

No.1 not an issue

It may be getting tense at the top of the WTA rankings, where Swiatek has seen much of her once gargantuan lead over the rest of the tour trimmed significantly (currently she is 1399 points ahead of Sabalenka).

So much, in fact, that the Pole must reach at least the quarter-finals in Paris to stay atop the rankings, and even that might not be enough, depending upon Sabalenka's results.

But rankings are not Swiatek's concern at the moment. She was asked about it in press and wasn't even aware of the scenarios.

"I didn't even know about that," she deadpanned.

What Swiatek does know is that she doesn't mind the pressure of having to respond to her rivals.

“It's nice to have somebody constantly, kind of watching you,” Swiatek said. “We played so many matches against each other that tactically we know (each other’s) game pretty well.”

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Clean bill of health

After retiring in the third set of her Rome quarter-final with Rybakina with a right thigh injury, Swiatek says she’s good to go. She has already practised in Porte d’Auteuil several times with no strapping on the previously injured thigh, and she assured reporters that she feels fine. 

“I feel really happy that I can compete and I will be healthy for my first round,” she said. “Luckily nothing serious happened, so I had a couple of days off. I'm still recovering from the thigh injury, but I'll be good for my first round. That's the most important thing for me.”

Swiatek used the time after Rome to take extra cuts on the practice for the first time in a long time. That precious time spent nailing down her technique is clearly providing her with a confidence boost. 

“I'm really using this time right now, because it's my first week since I would say even Indian Wells when I have time to take everything slowly and just focus on my technique a little bit more. I think it's going to give me a lot of confidence going to the tournament,” said the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT