Iga Swiatek recently revealed she was fervently hoping for Novak Djokovic to win the 2021 US Open title. Swiatek even admitted that she was reduced to tears when Djokovic fell short at the last hurdle (losing to Daniil Medvedev).
If Novak Djokovic had won the US Open, it would have been akin to killing two birds with one stone – a record 21st Major title as well as a Calendar Grand Slam, the latter of which was last achieved by Rod Laver back in 1969. The Serb had a lot riding on the final in New York, and many believe a win in that match would have cemented his status as the undisputed GOAT.
In a an interview with BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday, Iga Swiatek talked frankly about her emotions at the end of the US Open. She also claimed that Novak Djokovic was the player most likely to complete the Calendar Slam.
"I was cheering for Novak to win the Calendar Grand Slam this year because I feel like he deserves it," Swiatek said. "And if there is anybody that can win a calendar grand slam, it’s going to be him."
"So I was crying basically when he lost the final of the US Open," she added.
Iga Swiatek did, however, reiterate her adulation for Rafael Nadal in the very next sentence.
"But since I was a girl, I am Team Rafa," the World No. 4 said.
Novak Djokovic has, of course, been missing in action since the US Open final. He has had an incredible season overall, winning three Majors on three different surfaces - synthetic (Australian Open), clay (French Open) and grass (Wimbledon).
Djokovic did lose out on a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, right before finishing as the runner-up at the US Open. But the Serb's 27-1 win-loss ratio at the Slams in 2021 is still the best of his career, and the best by any male player since 1969.
It is yet to be seen if Novak Djokovic returns to the court before the end of the year. However, he will almost certainly be seen in action at the 2022 Australian Open, where he will look to win his 21st Slam title.
"Developing mentally on court was always my goal" - Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek also revealed she travels with a full-time psychologist (Daria Abramowicz), since she feels there is other stuff she needs to work on besides technique. The 2020 Roland Garros champion claimed she has always prioritized her overall development as a person, rather than just focusing on her tennis skills.
It is pertinent to note here that Swiatek marked World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, by donating her Indian Wells prize money to a mental health organization.
"Developing mentally on court was always my goal, because I feel there is something more I can work on besides physicality and technique on court," the 20-year-old said. "So when I was younger, I knew that there was some space for me to develop and to play better, and also to develop not only as an athlete but (as) a person."
This is not the first time that Iga Swiatek's prioritization of mental health has come to the fore. Swiatek was just 19 when she won a Grand Slam title, but she showed no nerves while beating the likes of Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin.
It is unusual to see a young athlete not only employ a full-time psychologist, but also acknowledge the stress of dealing with things both on and off the court. After her fourth-round win at Roland Garros 2020, Swiatek talked about how important it is to handle the pressure of the big stage.
"I just believe that mental toughness is probably the most important thing in tennis right now because everyone is playing on the highest level," Swiatek had said. "But the ones that are tough and that can handle pressure are the biggest ones".
On the professional front, Iga Swiatek was eliminated from Indian Wells in the Round of 16 by the hot-hitting Jelena Ostapenko. The Polish star was also edged out in the doubles fourth round by a whisker, losing narrowly with partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands to the pair of Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens.