PARIS -- As Iga Swiatek prepares for her title defense at Roland Garros next week, she assured reporters she's fit and ready to go. The 21-year-old was forced to withdraw from her Rome quarterfinal against eventual champion Elena Rybakina with a thigh injury in the third set.
"Luckily nothing serious happened, so I had a couple of days off," Swiatek told reporters at Media Day in Paris. "I'm still recovering from the thigh injury, but I'll be good for my first round. That's the most important thing for me."
A two-time champion at the French Open, Swiatek is set to face Spain's Cristina Bucsa in the first round.
"I just love coming back here no matter what my ranking is or no matter what my previous results are," Swiatek said.
"It's a great place to be, and I feel really happy that I can compete and I will be healthy for my first round. So yeah, it's just pretty exciting time no matter what happened earlier."
Despite the injury in Rome, Swiatek says her preparation for Roland Garros has been a calmer one compared to last year. She has played non-stop since Stuttgart, but her quarterfinal exit in Rome gave her some time to breathe.
"Having this time to reset and think about other stuff and just calm down for a couple of days was really helpful," Swiatek said.
"And to also analyze what happened during the whole clay season. It's a nice way to go to the last tournament of the clay season with all the knowledge that I gained."
For the first time since ascending to the No.1 ranking in April of last year, Swiatek will be playing a tournament with the top spot on the line. That was news to Swiatek, who said she unaware of scenarios that could see No.2 Aryna Sabalenka overtake her by tournament's end.
The subject of the budding rivalry between Swiatek, Sabalenka and No.4 Elena Rybakina was a hot topic throughout Media Day. Last year, Swiatek arrived in Paris in the midst of what would be a 37 match win streak and the clear front-runner for the title.
With Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina splitting the three biggest European clay tournaments ahead of Roland Garros, the playing field appears more level.
"Totally different situation than last year," Swiatek said. "It's nice to have somebody constantly kind of watching you. We played so many matches against each other that tactically we know our games pretty well.
"But we also have to kind of come up with some different solutions sometimes, which is pretty exciting, because I never had that yet in my career. I think this is what the Big Three [Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic] had to do for sure when they played like, 30 matches against each other or even more.
"So I'm happy to learn some new stuff. And also, for sure we are all working really hard to play better and better. It is an extra motivation, for sure."
Sabalenka has had nearly two weeks to recover from her win against Swiatek in Madrid. Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, bowed out in her opening round in Rome to Sofia Kenin but says the loss may have been a blessing in disguise.
"It was good lesson for all of us," Sabalenka said. "Yeah, I was exhausted, but we did good recovery. I was able to recharge and start everything over again."
Sabalenka is taking on a number of milestones in Paris, where she has yet to advance past the third round. She is playing a major as a Grand Slam champion for the first time of her career. She is also doing so under the prospect of ascending to No.1 for the first time.
"I'm not focusing on that because every time I'm focusing on something like that, like points, ranking, results, and I'm not playing my best," Sabalenka said. "So I'm trying to focus on myself, on my game, and make sure I bring my best tennis and then we will see after these couple of weeks what gonna happen."
Sabalenka and Swiatek, both of whom will feature in Part 2 of Netflix's Break Point, split their past two matches, in Stuttgart and Madrid. Same with Rybakina. Sabalenka won their Australian Open final matchup but then fell to Rybakina in Indian Wells.
"I really like it, actually, because it's always tough battles against Iga or Elena," Sabalenka said. "So that's really an extra motivation. That's what I'm saying, like that's really pushing you in the next level. You're working so hard to get the title. There is no easy matches.
"So, yeah, that really motivates me a lot to keep going, to keep doing what we're doing."
When asked about her growing rivalries with Swiatek and Sabalenka, Rybakina had a more pragmatic approach, noting the year is long and things can change quickly.
"For now, yes, I would say just because of the results, "Rybakina said. "But yeah, and I think we kind of pushing each other."