How Naomi Osaka became the reason for Iga Swiatek sticking it out on tour instead of going off to college

How Naomi Osaka became the reason for Iga Swiatek sticking it out on tour instead of going off to college
How Naomi Osaka became the reason for Iga Swiatek sticking it out on tour instead of going off to college

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek are set for a blockbuster clash at the 2024 French Open, with the duo ready to take on each other in the second round on Wednesday evening (May 29). While Osaka needed three sets to down Lucia Bronzetti in her opener, Swiatek took down Leolia Jeanjean in straight sets to set up the meeting with the former World No. 1.

Swiatek and Osaka share a long history, with the duo becoming friends on tour very early on. Their history began as early as 2020 when Iga Swiatek was still a teenager and yet to win her first Grand Slam title.

As the story goes, Swiatek and Osaka went out for dinner ahead of the Australian Open that year, when the Pole conceded to her senior that she was considering going to college instead of continuing with the tour. Naomi Osaka, however, interjected, telling Swiatek to not distract herself and keep playing professional tennis as she was quite good.

“I thought it was really nice to watch because I ate dinner with her last year here. She was talking about how she might go to college. I was telling her, like, she’s really good, and I think she’s going to do really well, so maybe don’t try to divert your energy to college just yet. I’m glad she was able to win a Grand Slam so fast. Hopefully she’ll continue to grow, which I know she will," Naomi Osaka revealed later to the press.

As fate would have it, Iga Swiatek went on to win her maiden Grand Slam just months later, winning the 2020 French Open as an unseeded player.

In an Instagram live session hosted by the Japanese a couple of years later during the COVID-19 lockdown, Swiatek joined the former World No. 1 and discussed their first encounter on the WTA Tour. Naomi Osaka joked that when she first saw the 22-year-old she was slightly put off by Swiatek just staring at her, only to later realize that the World No. 1 was "actually very nice."

"I first saw you in Birmingham... and I felt like you were just staring at me. I was like, 'Why are you staring at me? Did I do something wrong?' But in Toronto, I was like, 'Oh, actually, she's very nice!', and I was surprised because I thought you hated me or something... so the entire time, I was like, 'Oh, no!'" Osaka said.

Swiatek also recalled the experience, revealing how she wanted to discuss something with Osaka but decided not to because she was too shy to approach the four-time Grand Slam champion.

"I always thought you were very interesting, and you were playing very well and I wanted to observe was you were doing, just to be better. I remember we were stretching next to each other in Birmingham and I saw an Instagram that you posted for your dad's birthday... and I wanted to talk to you about that and tell you that it was funny, but I was too shy, so I just kept stretching," Swiatek said.

"I am honestly really excited" - Naomi Osaka on facing Iga Swiatek at the French Open 2024

2024 French Open - Day 1
2024 French Open - Day 1

When Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka meet each other in the second round of the 2024 French Open, it will be under vastly different circumstances as compared to 2020. Two-time defending champion Swiatek is the in-form player, coming into Roland Garros with back-to-back titles at the Madrid Open and the Italian Open.

Osaka, on the other hand, has not had the best results in Paris, even if she feels she has been better on clay this season than in previous years. Speaking at her press conference ahead of the clash, the Japanese was excited to take on the World No. 1, stating that it was an honor for her to face such a dominant player at the tournament.

"I am honestly really excited and I watched her a lot when I was pregnant and honestly I think it is an honor to play her in the French Open because she has won more than once here, it's like a big honor and challenge for me," Naomi Osaka said.

The head-to-head between the duo is 1-1, with Iga Swiatek having won their most recent clash in the final of the 2022 Miami Open.

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