Iga Świątek has discussed the “surreal” moment she hit with tennis legend Rafael Nadal at the 2021 French Open.
The 20-year-old has regularly described Nadal as her childhood idol.
In a column for BBC Sports, she reiterated her admiration for the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
“You may have heard that I’m a big fan of Rafael Nadal and when I first met him it was pretty cool to see him sober,” said Świątek.
“He was very humble and it seems that success has not changed him. If I am going to win more Grand Slam titles and have more success in my career then I hope I will be like Rafa.”
Świątek and Nadal shared a practice field last year as they prepared for Roland-Garros, with both stars entering the tournament as defending champions.
“Last year at Roland Garros, we hit the track together,” said Świątek. “When we met it felt surreal. I was super excited and couldn’t stop smiling for five minutes.
“I wanted to see what Rafa was like in real life and he joked about his forehand, which is crazy because I think he has the best forehand ever.
“I remember at my first Grand Slam I had to push myself to get his autograph because I was nervous. So hitting him a few years later was the kind of moment where you can see how much progress you’ve made and what you’ve been through.”
wiątek entered the stage at the French Open in 2020, winning her first Grand Slam title at just 19 years old.
She has maintained her place at the top of women’s tennis, triumphing at the Italian Open last year and becoming the only player in 2021 to reach the second week of all four Grand Slams.
Świątek is currently participating in the Australian Open and will face Sorana Cîrstea in the fourth round on Monday.
The young talent is following in the footsteps of her childhood idol in Grand Slam success, but she also hopes to replicate his charitable efforts.
“Eventually I want to have my own foundation, like Rafa and other players, and a foundation that gives tennis scholarships to young children in Poland,” she said.
“I know how hard it was for my father to invest in me. I don’t want other talented kids to have the same problems I had in the beginning.
“They may not have the money for training or physical therapy, so I want to try and make it easier for them to develop.
“It’s not a concrete plan yet, but an idea. At the moment I have to focus on my career, so I will develop that when I’m a bit older.”
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