Reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek rallied from a set down to win the last 11 of 12 games to defeat her good friend Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the second round of the Gippsland Trophy. Swiatek faces No.9 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Round of 16.
"For sure at the beginning it was tough," Swiatek told WTA Insider after the win. "I felt like I couldn't concentrate very well and my head was not in the right place.
"But I knew that it can happen at the beginning of the season. It was my first match. And my opponent was in a different situation. She played a first-round and had this privilege, but I'm happy that I had a bye. I was just trying to stay patient and trying to focus on different things, technical stuff. But in the first set it wasn't easy at all."
🤗It's always challenging to play your best friend, especially when it's the first match of the season - after the break and quarantine. 3rd round it is.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) February 2, 2021
🤗Grać przeciwko najlepszej przyjaciółce, szczególnie gdy to pierwszy mecz sezonu to zawsze wyzwanie. Jest trzecia runda. pic.twitter.com/0yivjQBz4z
Playing her first match since Roland Garros and seeded at a WTA event for the first time in her career, the 19-year-old looked slow out of the blocksas she began her 2021 campaign. With Juvan striking the ball big and clean, Swiatek was caught flat-footed as she fought to find her rhythm.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous but I just felt stressed in a different way," Swiatek said. "I felt it in my body because I felt really slow and heavy at the beginning. I didn't know I was stressed before the match, but it wasn't the first match that I feel that way. I just focus on my legs if I have a problem like that and do everything faster than it seems. Sometimes I was late to too many balls and I wasn't really playing consistent tennis.
"I'm super happy that I was patient enough to change that and I didn't get angry."
"I think the worst is behind me because the first match is always tough. I'm looking forward to my next round and I'm kind of more peaceful. I hope it's going to stay that way tomorrow."
"It's good to know that even though I was losing the first set and I didn't actually do anything wrong - I was just playing bad - it's good to know it can change. When I was younger I wasn't that patient and I was angry after a few games that I lost. So I'm happy that I'm more mature right now and I could change that."
"If you try really hard some days, it's going to click. So I was waiting for that click and it came and I'm really glad."
One notable change to Swiatek's arsenal is her racquet. Having won her first major with a Prince racquet in hand, Swiatek signed with Technifibre after extensive testing in the off-season.
"I tested right after the French Open because my coach was talking to Technifibre even before the tournament, so I had a long time to get used to the racquet," Swiatek said. "It fits me really well and they have great technology so I didn't have a problem changing.
"I had doubts if mentally I would think about the change, but I had so much time to prepare in my pre-season so it wasn't a problem. So I'm so happy I did it this year and I think it will be a good partnership."