Swiatek stays grounded ahead of Rybakina test in clash of champions

Swiatek stays grounded ahead of Rybakina test in clash of champions

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[1/2] Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 20, 2023 Poland’s Iga Swiatek in action during her third round match against Spain’s Cristina Bucsa REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

Jan 22 (Reuters) – The ‘Iga Swiatek Bakery’ was open for business again at the Australian Open, dishing out bagels and breadsticks in a 6-0 6-1 third-round win over Cristina Bucsa, but the world number one wants those chants shut down for good.

“I heard it when someone screamed about the ‘bakery’, but I don’t want to hear stuff like that during the match,” she had said after the win.

Not one to strut as she dominates her opponents in Melbourne with supreme ease, Swiatek is taking a leaf out of skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s book in learning to be down to earth as the Polish top seed seeks her first Australian Open title.

Shiffrin is one victory away from breaking the record of 82 World Cup wins and Swiatek said she considered the American a role model because of the way she handled the pressure.

“It’s sometimes hard to deal with that when all eyes are on you and you have to still be kind of patient and down to earth, really work hard to achieve that,” Swiatek said.

“Because in sport nothing’s going to come for free. I really like how she dealt with that… I really appreciate what Mikaela is doing, she’s a champion.

“The way she also talks about mental health and all the things that she struggles with, it’s also helping other athletes to understand a little bit more how it is to be an athlete, what challenges we face and how to overcome them sometimes.”

Swiatek won two majors last year and in the fourth round she is up against another Grand Slam champion, 22nd seed Elena Rybakina, who conquered the grasscourts at Wimbledon and does not care that she is facing the top seed this early.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter which round I play because I think Iga is a great player. No matter what, the goal is to beat the top players,” Rybakina said.

“For sure she’s very strong physically and mentally. I think that if I’m going to play my game, aggressive, I’m going to be solid from the beginning till the end.”

In the men’s draw, Swiatek’s compatriot Hubert Hurkacz will face American Sebastian Korda who dumped 2021 and 2022 runner-up Daniil Medvedev out in straight sets.

“His serve is definitely one of the best on tour. Just the way he moves, kind of similar style a little bit to Daniil,” Korda said.

“I’m really looking forward to it. We practice quite a bit. Usually whenever we practice, he actually wins the tournament!”

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Italy’s Jannik Sinner who will be seeking revenge for last year’s quarter-final defeat in straight sets.

“I have a good memory from last year. I’m sure he’s much better prepared this time,” said Greek Tsitsipas, who has not dropped a set in Melbourne this year.

“I have big weapons. I can, I think, generate even more power now than I did before.”

Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, another French Open champion, will play last year’s Roland Garros runner-up American Coco Gauff.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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