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Tennis-Swiatek’s safety net on clay a big confidence booster


By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) – Iga Swiatek goes into Saturday’s French Open final as the overwhelming favourite having won the title twice at Roland Garros and knowing she has a safety net on clay.

The world number one ran into trouble in her 6-2 7-6(7) semi-final victory over Beatriz Haddad Maia on Thursday but always felt in control, denying she was frustrated when the Brazilian offered more resistance than her previous opponents.

Swiatek will face Czech Karolina Muchova in the final.

“I felt the same as usual. I actually felt kind of more focused because I know that the crowd was loud and I tried to just kind of keep my focus inside,” the Pole told a press conference.

Swiatek, however, struggled to handle the top spin of Haddad Maier’s serve and her power, facing a set point in the tiebreak.

“I just knew that I can really use my power on clay and even make it physical if I need to,” she said. “So I had a lot of confidence in myself today.”

Playing on the red dirt only increases her self-confidence.

“Obviously, it’s still a lot of pressure and it’s not easy, but also on clay I feel like I have more weapons than on faster hard courts,” Swiatek said.

“I’m trying to use that confidence and that feeling of being comfortable on that surface to just kind of focus on that a little bit more and play better because of that.”

She has reached her third final in Paris in the last four years, having won in 2020 and 2022.

“I feel like I’m a better player. Improvement I feel like is everywhere. Like tennis-wise, mentally, tactically, physically, just having the experience,” she said.

A self-declared fan of 14-times men’s champion Rafael Nadal, Swiatek, however, does not see herself reigning on the Parisian red dirt as long as the Spaniard.

“What he did and what he’s still doing, it’s pretty amazing. I never kind of knew that it’s going to be possible for me. So it is totally out of my reach, if I can say that,” she said.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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