INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- On a day that saw American skiing phenom Mikaela Shiffrin win her 87th World Cup race to become the sport's all-time winningest athlete, WTA World No.1 Iga Swiatek opened up her BNP Paribas Open title defense by losing just one game.
Swiatek and Shiffrin have struck up a virtual friendship over the last few years, with both athletes going out of their way to celebrate each other's achievements and offer support behind the scenes. After her opening win in Indian Wells, Swiatek was asked if there was a tennis equivalent to what Shiffrin has accomplished, becoming the most successful skier of all time at just 27 years old.
It took her a while to run the calculations in her head.
"Well, any of the Big 3 guys and Serena, I think," Swiatek said. "Yeah, she just dominated the sport.
"But on the other hand, the Big 3 had each other to kind of compete against each other. She's dominating. She's better than anyone."
Congratulations Queen 💪🏼👑— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) March 4, 2023
Swiatek has looked to Shiffrin as a model in how to handle the external and internal pressures that come part and parcel with maintaining performance at the highest levels. The two have still yet to meet, but that could change soon. Swiatek and Shiffrin are both nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year.
"I don't know a lot about the technique but even I can see with my eyes that she has this huge talent. She's [doing] everything to optimize her potential and to just ski well mentally, physically, and technically. So I really respect that. She deserves this. And she's a nice person. We haven't met still, but the Instagram messages tell me she's a nice person. Huge congrats to her."
Shiffrin wasn't the only Olympian on Swiatek's mind on Saturday. The Polish star also took time to meet with Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medalist Nathan Chen and ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker.