“Got to Feel His Forehand”: Iga Swiatek Opens Up on Hitting With Idol Rafael Nadal at French Open 2021

Published 06/01/2021, 6:49 AM EDT
Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 31, 2021 Poland’s Iga Swiatek reacts during her first round match against Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan REUTERS/Benoit Tessier


Iga Swiatek has opened up on her wish-fulfillment – hitting with idol Rafael Nadal – a day before opening her title defense at Roland-Garros with a resounding win over good friend Kaja Juvan on her 20th birthday.

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Speaking to reporters after coming through in straight sets and receiving a tight hug from her friend, the birthday song, and even a congratulatory bouquet from the organizers to make it a memorable outing at Court Philippe-Chatrier, Swiatek said that she had to prepare a few lines to prevent an “awkward silence” with Nadal.

Iga Swiatek reveals she had to prepare lines to prevent awkward silence with Rafael Nadal

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Swiatek revealed that it was tough engaging in “small talk” in between hitting with the champion as she is an introvert but she had her slice of fun out of it. With the experience yet to sink in, the Pole said Nadal was “really nice” in how he made it comfortable for her during the hitting session.

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his final match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

“It was great. It wasn’t a surprise because I had to prepare (smiling). Write some small topics, not to have awkward silence. But Rafa is really, really great. He’s a really nice guy. Even though I’m pretty introverted, it was really fun for me,” Swiatek said.

The 20-year-old added that while she has admired his shots from afar, it was the first time she got to experience Nadal’s stinging forehand tricky topspin from the other end of the court.

She added that the whole experience has filled her with “positive energy” which she hopes will stand her in good stead during the tournament. “Obviously I got to feel his forehand, which was great, and his topspin. That was a whole new experience for me. It gave me, like, a lot of positive energy,” the current World No. 9 said.

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Swiatek added that Nadal, perhaps, sensed an element of diffidence in her and cracked jokes to help her get along.

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“It was really a huge inspiration for me. It’s really nice to see such a champion being normal off court, and also telling jokes and being a little sarcastic. It’s really, really nice,” Swiatek said.

Summing up her experience, she added that everyone can take a piece of Nadal and treasure it for a lifetime. The Polska will play Rebecca Peterson of Sweden in the second round at Roland-Garros on Wednesday.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

968 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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