Iga Świątek has discussed the “surreal” moment she hit with tennis legend Rafael Nadal at the 2021 French Open.
The 20-year-old has regularly described Nadal as her childhood idol.
In a column for BBC Sport, she reiterated her admiration for the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
“You may have heard I’m a big fan of Rafael Nadal and when I met him for the first time it was pretty cool to see he is down to earth,” Świątek said.
“He was really humble and it doesn’t seem like the success has changed him. If I’m going to win more Grand Slam titles and have more success in my career then I hope I will be like Rafa.”
Świątek and Nadal shared a practice court while preparing for Roland-Garros last year, with both stars entering the tournament as defending champions.
“At Roland Garros last year we hit together on court,” Świątek said. “When we met it felt surreal. I was super excited and I could not stop smiling for about five minutes.
“I wanted to see how Rafa was in real life and he was making fun of his forehand which is crazy because he has the best forehand ever in my opinion.
“I remember at my first Grand Slam I had to push myself to get his autograph because I was nervous. So hitting with him a few years later was the kind of moment where you can see how much progress you have made and what you have been through.”
Świątek burst onto the scene at the French Open in 2020, winning her first Grand Slam title at just 19-years-old.
She has maintained her place at the top of women’s tennis, triumphing at the Italian Open last year and becoming the only player in 2021 to reach the second week of all four Grand Slams.
Świątek is currently contesting the Australian Open and will meet Sorana Cîrstea in the fourth round on Monday.
The young talent is following in the footsteps of her childhood idol in terms of Grand Slam success, but she is also hoping to replicate his charitable endeavours too.
“Eventually I want to have a foundation of my own – like Rafa and other players – and one which gives tennis scholarships to young kids in Poland,” she said.
“I know how hard it was for my dad to invest in me. I don’t want other talented kids to have the same problems that I had at the beginning.
“They might not have the money for training or physiotherapy so I want to try and make it easier for them to develop.
“It’s not a specific plan yet, just an idea. At the moment I need to focus on my career so will develop that when I am a little older.”