Iga Swiatek excited for Osaka and Nadal returns as she eyes Olympic gold in Paris

World No 1 fine-tuning her preparations ahead of the 2024 season at the World Tennis League in Abu Dhabi

World No 1 Swiatek ‘really happy’ about Osaka and Nadal’s comebacks

World No 1 Swiatek ‘really happy’ about Osaka and Nadal’s comebacks
Powered by automated translation

As she puts the finishing touches to her game before kicking off her 2024 campaign in Australia later this month, Iga Swiatek is excited not just about the new season but about the highly anticipated comebacks of Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal.

Osaka is scheduled to return from her maternity leave at the Brisbane International in the opening week of January to contest her first tournament since September 2022.

The Japanese four-time grand slam champion, who gave birth to her daughter Shai in July, was awarded a wildcard for Brisbane, where Nadal is also expected to make his first competitive appearance since the 2023 Australian Open in January, having been sidelined with a hip injury that required surgery.

Swiatek, who is currently in Abu Dhabi for the World Tennis League exhibition event, will be keeping an eye on both returnees and is curious to see where their level will be at after their lengthy absences.

“I really like to watch them, so just from a fan perspective I’m really happy that they are coming back and I’m going to be able to see their game,” said Swiatek at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena on Thursday.

“Rafa obviously is a huge inspiration for me, so I just hope he’s going to play nicely.

“Naomi, we may play against each other, so it’s pretty funny but I’m happy that she’s back and she could fulfil her other goals and now come back to playing tennis.

“I’m just curious how they’re going to play, if they’re going to be rusty or not but obviously they are both really experienced so I hope they’re going to go well.”

Step by step

Swiatek looked sharp in the set she won against 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Thursday and said she managed to test out some of the things she had been working on with her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski during this pre-season training block.

The Polish world No 1 is coming off yet another stellar campaign in which she added a fourth grand slam to her ever-growing trophy cabinet. Swiatek enters 2024 carrying an 11-match winning streak, having picked up titles in Beijing and at the WTA Finals in Cancun in her last two events of the year.

While she admittedly struggled to deal with the pressure at certain moments and faced stiff competition from Aryna Sabalenka during the season, Swiatek managed to wrestle back the top ranking from the Belarusian to end 2023 on a high.

“I feel like I could actually rest better this year [during offseason]. I worked on many stuff off court last year during pre-season but this time was more peaceful, so I really could focus on practising,” said the 22-year-old Swiatek.

“There wasn’t much for me to do besides tennis so I’m really happy that I was really locked into the work and I feel that gives me a lot of certainty that I did everything I could during pre-season to work on my game and do some technical stuff and just try to implement it.

“I’m not thinking too much about the things that are going to happen in the future. I’m really just focusing on the tournaments in Australia and I’m going to take it step by step this time.”

‘Olympic medal would be a dream come true’

Swiatek will begin 2024 by teaming up with Hubert Hurkacz and their fellow Poles at the United Cup in Perth.

The nation-vs-nation event will provide Swiatek the chance to play mixed doubles with Hurkacz – who is also her teammate at the WTL this weekend in Abu Dhabi – with the pair likely set to join forces at the Paris 2024 Olympics next summer.

Given her success at the French Open, where she has won three of her four majors, Swiatek will fancy her chances of clinching gold for Poland at the Olympics tennis tournament, which will be hosted at the same Roland Garros clay-court venue in Paris.

“Yes, for sure [it’s a big goal]. We’re going to have some time to think about that before the clay season obviously. But for now, I’m just thinking about Australia and trying not to go too far because the season is long and a lot of things can happen,” said Swiatek, who will likely play singles and mixed doubles in the Paris Games.

“But I’m really happy that I have the opportunity to play some mixed doubles with Hubi and to test it out and practise a little bit before the Olympics because getting a medal there would be a dream come true for sure.”

Updated: December 22, 2023, 9:36 AM