APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Being an inspiration fuels Swiatek

Iga Swiatek shot to stardom almost overnight.

She started the 2020 Roland Garros tournament as an unseeded teenager ranked 54 in the world and finished it as Poland’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Swiatek penned more chapters to her storied career – from winning more majors, breaking more records and spending 100 weeks, and counting, as the world No.1 – and has developed into a true icon, not just for Poland, but women’s sport as a whole.

At just 22, Swiatek has grown accustomed to her status as the face of tennis – and sport – back home and says it provides extra motivation, knowing she is a role model for children in Poland.

“It all really happened suddenly after Roland Garros 2020, but back then, I felt like still people didn’t know if I’m going to be just a one-time athlete that succeeded or I’m going to keep playing well. I didn’t know that, as well,” she reflected on Monday after she punched her ticket to the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals.

“So for sure I think my consistency put me in that position. I would say it’s a nice role to have, because I always wanted to kind of inspire. Also, it’s easier to find motivation when you feel like, you know, kids are watching you.

“But on the other hand, for sure, it’s also some baggage on your shoulders. It’s not easy to balance it and to kind of save yourself of that, because everybody treats you like I should play for them, not for me.

“So, I’m kind of learning sometimes how to deal with that and how to not let that affect my mentality or my attitude.”

Swiatek has done a tremendous job so far not letting the pressure of expectations weigh her down.

On Monday at the Caja Magica, she dropped the opening game against home favourite Sara Sorribes Tormo before sweeping the next 12 to secure a 6-1, 6-0 result.

Swiatek has become such a dominant frontrunner, she’s lost just once in 62 matches last year when she won the first set, and is 26-1 in such matches this season.

“I think all the mental stuff, I’m always kind of trying to stay present and do the same work no matter what stage of the match I’m in,” she says when trying to explain what makes her numbers so staggering in that category.

Up next for Swiatek in Madrid is Brazilian lefty Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is also a player who understands all too well the pressure of carrying a nation’s hopes on her back.

Haddad Maia claimed a convincing 6-4, 6-4 victory over an in-form Maria Sakkari on Monday, and can take confidence from the fact she has been a tough opponent for Swiatek in the past.

Swiatek leads their head-to-head record 2-1, winning their two most recent meetings, but their semi-final at the French Open last year witnessed a tight second set that could have gone either way.

“The biggest thing I remember is it was really tight in the first set,” recalled Swiatek of their clash in Paris.

“The tiebreaker was stressful. I remember the crowd also being crazy, because the Brazilian crowd is, like, taking all these instruments with them and making a small music festival on the audience. So it was for sure different experience, a good one but tough to handle.

“I wouldn’t expect an easy match against Bia, for sure. She’s a great player.”

A finalist in Madrid last year, Swiatek is pleased with her performances so far en route to the quarter-finals – she has lost just eight games in total through three matches this fortnight – and has taken a relaxed approach to her off days in the Spanish capital.

“I didn’t have practice yesterday, so I had a full day off to do some stuff. I went to eat some great seafood. I was at the park. Just walking around, looking for something to shop. It was pretty fun,” said Swiatek, who is seeking her third WTA 1000 title of the season.

“We really know Madrid pretty well and we stay in a nice location where everything is close. It’s easy for me to kind of wind off and not think about tennis.”