PARIS, France - Iga Swiatek will have plenty of stories to regale her classmates when she returns to high school after the French Open. The 18-year-old reigning junior Wimbledon champion has made a seamless transition to the senior level, advancing to her first Round of 16 at a Slam in just her second major main draw at Roland Garros.
And she's done it all while juggling homework.
"It's really hard, especially this time of year because the tennis season at the Slams starts and school will be finished in two weeks," Swiatek said. "So it's really hard right now.
"I'm in private school so the teachers are helpful but usually after tournaments when I come back home I have to catch up. I need a few days and nights to do it, so it's kind of hard. It's also hard to focus only on tennis and practice 100%. I still have one more year so I guess I'm doing well."
Swiatek came into Roland Garros ranked No.104, but after scoring big wins over Wang Qiang and Monica Puig to make the second week, she'll see her ranking soar over 40 spots regardless of the outcome of her Round of 16 clash against reigning champion Simona Halep.
"Playing against Halep is one of my dreams," Swiatek told reporters. "I have nothing to lose, so no pressure or anything."
"It's a great experience, all of it. Even losing would be nice," she said, laughing.
In her first full season on tour, Swiatek has been a name to watch in every draw she's been able to enter. In January she successfully qualified for her first Slam main draw at the Australian Open, advancing to the second round. In April she advanced to her first WTA final on the clay in Lugano, narrowly losing to Polona Hercog in three sets.
🥂THANK YOU FOR ALL THE BIRTHDAY WISHES🥂 LOVE YOUUU pic.twitter.com/agJXR8SV9Z
— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) June 1, 2019
Swiatek celebrated her 18th birthday the day before her third round match against Puig, but what was supposed to be a day of joy turned into one of concern. Swiatek injured her back during practice and was concerned she would not be able to play against Puig.
"It was the weirdest birthday I had because getting injured on your birthday is not the best thing in the world," Swiatek said.
"I was really scared. I took pain killers and pain killers are great," laughed. "It saved my life."
Of the many stories Swiatek will be able to share with her friends in Warsaw, one includes finally meeting Polish star and former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska, who retired last season.
"Actually we met like five days ago," Swiatek said. "She didn't tell me any specific stuff about tennis, we just talked about normal things. We're just getting to know each other. I hope she's traveling more to Grand Slams."
WTA Insider sat down with Swiatek after her third-round victory:
WTA Insider: How did you start playing tennis?
Swiatek: My father always liked tennis and he wanted his daughter to play. It was his idea. My older sister was playing. She's three years older and I always wanted to be like her. I was always competing with her when I was younger and I always lost, so that was very motivating for me.
I guess I was really competitive. It wasn't just about tennis. If I would swim or do anything, I was always going to be competitive. I guess I liked it because I was good at it. It was natural for me.
And I always wanted to beat my sister. Sorry, sister!
WTA Insider: When did you finally beat your sister?
Swiatek: I haven't! She stopped playing tennis about 3-4 years ago. She had an injury, so I didn't get a chance.
But she's great. She's really proud of me right now.
WTA Insider: At what moment did you realize you wanted to become a professional tennis player?
Swiatek: I didn't have an exact moment, but when I came here two years ago, it was my first Grand Slam juniors. It was overwhelming. When I saw the people and the atmosphere, it was really great, and I thought I wanted to do it for real. Because when I was younger I didn't have an obsession with tennis. I didn't watch any matches, I was just playing.
But when I came to the Grand Slam it totally changed and I realized that it was a cool way to have a life.
WTA Insider: Do you enjoy the traveling?
Swiatek: Yes. Sometimes it's annoying when you have to travel 30 hours to get to Australia. But I love the European tournament season because every tournament is 1-2 hours from my home so it's perfect. I love traveling. I would be bored if I stayed at home.
WTA Insider: Does your family travel with you?
Swiatek: Sometimes my dad, but he's ok with not traveling. Sometimes I just need the space, like a normal teenager, so I'm just glad that he's ok with that. I like traveling with my team because I feel more focused. When I'm with my dad I always think of home and it's not a tournament mood.
WTA Insider: You're still in highschool. What are your favorite subjects?
Swiatek: I love maths and maths (laughing). I only have five subjects right now because we are studying for the big test before graduation. So Maths, English, Polish language, Essays, but I don't like Spanish. Sorry. It's not my thing.
WTA Insider: What do you do in your free time?
Swiatek: Well, I'm studying, but in free time I read books and listen to music. I have a big obsession with music. I have a type of music for every mood, but I love rock.
I love Pink Floyd. If I have a mood for Pop, I like ABBA. I also like Coldplay, Florence and the Machine, Santana. And if I want something more aggressive, AC/DC gets me in the mood. I've been listening to "Thunderstruck" before the matches.
And I'm watching The Office, the US version.
WTA Insider: What are your favorite Pink Floyd songs?
Swiatek: I love "Learning to Fly", "Comfortably Numb", and recently I've been listening to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".
WTA Insider: You've been saying all week that you're playing with no expectations and no pressure. Now you're one win away from the quarterfinals of a Slam. Can you still play freely or has something changed?
Swiatek: It hasn't changed, because I'm playing Simona Halep (laughs)!
It's going to be a great experience. I'm just happy because when the draw was officially announced, I was like dammit. I know it's hard to play the biggest star, but I always want it and now I have a chance. I will try to show my good tennis, but it's going to be tough.
WTA Insider: When you are playing the type of tennis you want to play, what does that look like? What is Iga Swiatek tennis?
Swiatek: On clay? A big serve, topspin, and backhand down the line.
WTA Insider: You're playing in your second Slam at the senior level and you're into the Round of 16 at Roland Garros? Are you surprised?
Swiatek: Yes, I am surprised. But also in the back of my mind I knew that the only thing that was stopping me was some mental stuff. So I worked on that and I'll still be working.
WTA Insider: Mentally speaking, how different are you now compared to 12 months ago after working with your mental coach?
Swiatek: It's not only the mental coach thing. I'm also just growing up. I focus more on the routines and I know the importance of it. Last year it was like I'm not going to do that because that's stupid.
She showed me the good ways to stay focused and be here on the court and not anywhere else. Everything changed a little bit and everything is going on a higher level a little bit.
WTA Insider: Are you surprised everything has come so fast or is this what you expected?
Swiatek: For me it's fine, but I'm scared that there are a lot of girls who had a big result when they were young and they had bad results later. That would be the most hard thing to do, to keep the same level. It's impossible to keep the same level, but staying with your tennis, not freaking out.
Right now I've done a big thing once, it's not that hard. But the hard thing is keeping it up."