Iga Swiatek column on being French Open favourite, going incognito & eating tiramisu in Rome

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Iga Swiatek

WTA world number one Iga Swiatek is back as a BBC Sport columnist at the French Open. In Paris, she is looking to continue her recent dominance and win a second Grand Slam title.

The 20-year-old from Poland, who won her first major at Roland Garros in 2020, goes into the clay-court Grand Slam as the heavy favourite after winning her past five tournaments and 28 matches.

Since my last column at the Australian Open, following a semi-final defeat in Melbourne, the world has changed dramatically for me. It’s been a crazy few months.

After that Grand Slam, I went on to win titles in Doha and Indian Wells – then became world number one after Ashleigh Barty’s shock retirement. A few days later I won the Miami Open and have also won in Stuttgart and Rome.

I feel like winning all these tournaments is overreaching the goals I set at the start of the year. Roland Garros – like all the Grand Slams – is a totally different vibe.

Obviously my position has changed and I am seen as the person to beat. Everyone wants to try and beat the world number one.

The changes have been big since I became world number one. The biggest has been the increased attention away from the court.

I have been spending more time speaking to journalists and doing interviews – which I really enjoy doing – but it’s something I have to learn how deal with.

I always knew it would be part of the job. I wanted to prepare for it and be ready for it. The most important thing is ensuring I have enough time to rest and be ready for the tournaments mentally.

In terms of attention from fans, I was really surprised there have been more of them approaching me – and they have been more excited – since I became world number one compared with when I won Roland Garros.

In Poland, I am recognised all the time and it is hard to find a place where I am not recognised. So when I am meeting friends I am usually doing it at my house or their house, which is OK for me.

But when I’m in other countries I feel I can be more incognito and it’s good.

When I’m abroad and go for a walk, or go to the beach, there are people who come over and congratulate me but it is all really nice and elegant and I like that the people are very respectful.

Iga Swiatek lifts Italian Open trophy
Iga Swiatek defended her title at the Italian Open last week and has not been beaten since losing to Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai on 14 February

How mental work and tiramisu trips help find balance

When I was younger I never thought it would be possible for me to have this kind of winning streak. I’m proud of myself and proud of my team.

Compared with two years ago, when I won the French Open, I feel I have much more confidence and much more belief I can do well. I also feel like I have had many more experiences which I can use now and use to problem solve when necessary.

That tournament was the breakthrough in terms of letting things go mentally, not caring to the point of detriment and not overthinking if I’d win or if I’d lose. That’s why I succeeded.

Last year I had to prove to myself and to the world that I could repeat a good result and I was pretty happy with reaching the quarter-finals.

It was the first time I was playing as the defending champion and someone who had something to prove. So the quarter-finals was good but all the tournament was pretty stressful.

This year I want to let go again, take everything match by match. I feel I have already proved everything about my game and ability this year, and won so many ranking points that I can play safely and be more relaxed.

I’m not worrying about this streak coming to an end – of course it has to at some point.

I need to prepare for that so I’m not surprised, overly disappointed or even heartbroken.

The work I do with my psychologist Daria Abramowicz – who is one of the only full-time psychologists on tour – is key to helping me.

I would not say we have changed everything, we like to do the same type of work. But I need more help with finding balance and doing things off court as well as on court.

I’m going so fast that the people around me need to be going fast too – Daria is doing that, running right next to me and she is so helpful.

Without that right balance and the help from her I wouldn’t be able to have so much consistency. That’s the main thing right now – continuing to find balance.

After winning the title in Rome, I relaxed by going to eat some tiramisu. That’s my favourite treat.

We have one restaurant close to the Vatican that we go back to every year and the waiter – who always recognises us – brought me some flowers. It was a lovely gesture.

Celebrating with my team – and eating tiramisu – is the kind of celebration I like. I’m not going to go partying.

It was the perfect treat and of course I ate it all. Hopefully those calories will not have some influence on my shape for Roland Garros!

Iga Swiatek was talking to Jonathan Jurejko at Roland Garros.

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