WATCH: Iga Swiatek kicked off her Roland Garros title defense with a straight-set win over good friend Kaja Juvan.


Iga Swiatek enjoyed an early birthday present over the weekend when she arrived at Roland Garros and practiced with childhood idol Rafael Nadal.

Swiatek has long been open about her admiration for the 20-time Grand Slam champion, interrupting an on-court interview at last year’s tournament to ask if he was still playing, gauging if she would have time to watch after her own win that day.

“It was great,” she recalled after her first-round victory over Kaja Juvan. “It wasn't a surprise because I had to prepare. Write some small topics, not to have awkward silence. But Rafa is really, really great. He's a really nice guy. Even though I am pretty introverted, it was really fun for me.”

Both Nadal and Swiatek are defending champions at this year’s event, and many fans hoped to see the two finally meet at a public draw ceremony that was instead held behind closed doors. The wait ultimately paid off for all involved as footage trickled in of the two practicing and posing for pictures together.


“Obviously I got to feel his forehand, which was great, and his topspin. That was a whole new experience for me. It gave me a lot of positive energy. It was really a huge inspiration for me.

“It's really nice to see such a champion being normal off court, and also telling jokes and being a little bit sarcastic. It's really, really nice. He's the guy that everybody can take something for themselves.”

No word on whether there might be a potential mixed doubles pairing in the future.