Still Beaming from Doubles Outing with Nadal, Swiatek Switches Focus in New York

For Swiatek, a longtime fan of the King of Clay, the opportunity to play next to him was quite a thrill.

“Rafa is great,” she said on Friday during her pre-tournament press conference. “I wouldn’t even imagine as a kid, like, playing next to him and being in the same team.”

More important, says Swiatek, is the fact that $1.2 million was raised for Ukraine at the event. Helping the people of Ukraine is near and dear to Swiatek’s heart. She hosted her own charity event, called “Swiatek and Friends for Ukraine,” for the same cause in July and raised over 400,000 Euros for three organizations that have worked to provide relief and aid to Ukrainian children.

“The whole event was really great,” Swiatek said of Wednesday’s exhibtion. “I’m pretty happy that we were able to raise such an amount of money. Like, all the people who were involved in making it, they give a good example. Pretty happy that I could participate in that and continue what I started back in February when I started talking about the war.

“It’s great that we as an athlete can just have this kind of impact and also give example and also attract people to come and give money for charities.”

Getting Serious About the Tournament

Turning to the tennis at hand, Swiatek hopes to continue her progression at the US Open, where she has gone one round further in each of her appearances. Last year Swiatek reached the round of 16 before falling to Belinda Bencic.

This year she’ll try her hand as the top seed, and open accounts with a first-round battle with Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

During the North American hard courts swing Swiatek has been vocal in her criticism of the US Open ball, which is lighter than the men’s ball and plays a bit faster. But her criticism does raise a question: Is Swiatek playing at a disadvantage if she is having trouble controlling the lighter “regular duty” balls in play this summer in New York?

She says no, she’s had plenty of time to practice and she’s ready to focus on the task at hand rather than her ball preference.

“Overall I said what I wanted to say,” she said before explaining her stance one last time. “The balls… after a few games, the conditions are totally changing because they get more and more light, they’re losing fluffiness. It’s hard to sometimes adjust.

“I don’t want to really focus on that right now because there’s a tournament coming up, and I want to really do my best to adjust and to learn because that’s what tennis players have to do. We can talk about the balls, but still we have to play matches and have to adjust. So I’m focusing on that right now.”

Swiatek enters the tournament with a 50-7 record and a whopping six titles to her name, including three on hard courts—at Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. She clearly knows her way around the surface, now all she has to do is prove that she can handle the pressure of the bright lights and big city of New York.

“I’m pretty excited, for sure,” she said of the challenge. “Happy that I had time to practice a little bit more. I feel like I’m ready. So it’s great that I can come back and learn more and more every year. I feel the progress, so hopefully I’m going to be able to show that in my matches.”

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