By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, June 4, 2022
Iga Swiatek has shared shots with Rafael Nadal, but breaking bread with the 13-time Grand Slam champion was where she learned a valuable lesson.
Running into her tennis hero at breakfast after Nadal lost the 2021 Roland Garros semifinal to rival Novak Djokovic, Swiatek said she told the Spanish superstar she was in tears watching him lose.
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Nadal’s response revealed his positive perspective on tennis—and showed Swiatek the importance of drawing joy from facing challenges.
“I feel like all these great champions, they kind of accept that they may lose,” Swiatek told the media in Paris after winning her second Roland Garros crown today. “I remember even last year when Rafa lost in semifinals, I met him next day, coincidence, on the breakfast in the hotel, and I said to him that I was crying basically the whole evening because he lost.
“He was sitting, and he was, like, Oh, it’s just a tennis match, you know. You win; you lose. It’s normal. That’s something, it’s pretty easy, but not everybody can do that and just treat those big moments as another match, you know. That’s something special.”
Hearing that positive perspective from the Grand Slam king inspired Swiatek.
“Because it seems like when he’s playing and when Novak is playing, they are just, you know, tennis players who are playing their sport and sometimes just, you know, having fun, honestly,” Swiatek said. “Facing challenges but not really thinking about the whole world.”
The reigning Roland Garros champion traded shots with Nadal during a Roland Garros practice session last spring.
Afterward, Swiatek cited three top takeaways from hitting with the king of clay: Nadal’s twisting topspin forehand takes spin to next-level heights, the positive energy her pours into practice is inspiring and Rafa likes to laugh.
“Obviously I got to feel his forehand, which was great, and his topspin,” Swiatek said. “That was a whole new experience for me. It gave me, like, a lot of positive energy.
“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 bit sarcastic. It’s really, really nice. He’s the guy that everybody can take something for themselves.”
— Tiffany Henne (@TiffanyHenne) May 29, 2021
The champions’ hit happened after the pair engaged in a “champion’s chat on Saturday.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 29, 2021
Swiatek scripted history at the 2020 Roland Garros as the first Polish player—male or female—to capture a Grand Slam singles crown.
A studious Swiatek prepared for her hit with her hero writing down questions for Rafa, both to learn and prevent any awkard silences.
“It was great. It wasn’t a surprise because I had to prepare,” Swiatek said. “Write some small topics, not to have awkward silence.
“But Rafa is really, really great. He’s a really nice guy. Even though I am pretty introverted, it was really fun for me.”
Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook