Iga Swiatek will look to become the first Polish woman in 81 years to reach the Roland Garros final on Thursday, fired up by Guns N’Roses, AC/DC, Pink Floyd...and watermelons.
With a world ranking of 54, the 19-year-old would normally start the semi-final of any Slam as the underdog. However, her opponent on Thursday will be Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, ranked at 131 and who is bidding to become the first qualifier to reach the final at a Grand Slam in the modern era.
In a Roland Garros like no other – being played four months late due to the coronavirus and with just a handful of spectators allowed on site – Swiatek has had to find novel ways to psyche herself up for her best run at Majors.
Step forward Axl Rose and Slash, the wild heartbeat of US rockers Guns N’Roses, one of Swiatek’s go-to bands.
“I am still listening to Guns N’Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle because I want to keep my routines,” she said. “Actually I wanted to change it because right now it’s kind of boring to listen every day to the same song. But yeah, I stayed with Guns N’Roses because I wanted to win.”
It’s paying off. Not only is she into the singles semi-finals without dropping a set, Swiatek is also in the last four of the doubles with Nicole Melichar, again all in straight sets. She only teamed up with Melichar on the eve of Roland Garros after the American’s scheduled partner couldn’t obtain a visa.
When she made the last 16 in Paris in 2019, Swiatek was discovering Pink Floyd.
“I love Learning to Fly, Comfortably Numb, and recently I’ve been listening to Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” she told WTA Insider. “If I want something more aggressive, AC/DC gets me in the mood. I’ve been listening to Thunderstruck before matches.”
‘Kind of crazy’
Music therapy is working wonders – at this Roland Garros, she knocked out 2018 champion and top seed Simona Halep, exacting revenge for the loss she suffered to the Romanian in the fourth round in 2019, winning just one game.
Swiatek is yet to win a WTA final, the closest she came was a runners-up spot in Lugano last year.
But sport runs in the blood – her father Tomasz Swiatek is a former rower who competed in the men’s quadruple sculls at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
“It’s amazing for me. I never would have thought that I’m going to be in the semi-finals in singles and doubles, so it’s kind of crazy,” she said Wednesday.
“I had to play a match every day. But it’s good for me, because I’m still in the rhythm. Also doubles is helping my performance in singles because I’m learning new stuff. The only tough thing about that is that I’m getting tired.”
That’s where the watermelons come in.
“Actually I’m eating a lot of watermelons here and also mango because fruits here are the best, like, every year.”
For Swiatek, this weekend could have three happy endings – two titles for her and a 13th and record-equalling 20th major for Rafael Nadal, by far her favourite player.
“He was the only player I watched when I was younger. I just wish him the best and I hope he’s going to get another French Open this year.”
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