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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday April 30, 2021

Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek was dominant in her first match on clay in 2021, but the Polish star warns she still has a lot of learning to do.

Photo Source: Madrid Open

Iga Swiatek loves to play on the clay but still has a lot of learning to do when it comes to succeeding on the surface consistently at the tour level.

Tennis Express

The 2020 Roland-Garros champion, who has won eight consecutive matches and 16 consecutive sets on the red clay after her 6-1, 6-1 takedown of Alison Riske on Thursday in Madrid, told reporters that playing—and dealing with the tricky conditions—in Madrid for the first time wasn’t exactly easy.

“Even though last time I played, I won French Open, I played eight singles matches on clay last year, so it isn't a lot,” she told reporters. Yeah, I still need to find some rhythm.”

Swiatek, who has started her season with a 12-4 record that includes a title in Adelaide and a round of 16 appearance at the Australian Open, recently skipped Stuttgart in order to complete a long training block at Sotogrande, in southern Spain. The 19-year-old says the week she spent there was like a mini pre-season, but she added that it couldn’t prepare her for the fast-flying conditions that she’s experiencing this week at altitude (just over 2,000 feet) in Madrid.

“We're still kind of figuring out,” she said. “That's my first time here. For sure the balls are, like, going pretty high because of the air here. Madrid is elevated. It's totally different. I strung my racquet more tight. I think most of the players are doing that, so it's not something special.

“You just have to be ready for every shot because I felt that on practices and even today that when I did something like a small mistake technically, the ball went out two meters. You really have to be careful here and just kind of really, really focus on techniques. On other surfaces, they allow you to do some mistakes and the ball is going to go in anyway. Here is a little bit different. I mean, that's my opinion. I don't know what other players are saying.”

Swiatek, who will face Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the second round, has played only 19 clay-court matches (15-4) and six clay-court events in her career thus far.

She’s still learning the intricacies of all the different venues, and adjusting on the fly against players who have far more experience on tour. But that hasn’t proven to be a problem for her thus far. Still, she says she found it “annoying” that she got so comfortable with her game during her training block in Sotogrande and arrived in Madrid to a completely different set of conditions. She feels it has thrown her off a bit, though it certainly didn’t show in her first match against Riske, when she dropped just two games.

“I expect myself to play well in every match,” she said, before adding: "Right now I feel like it's so hard to switch to other places, change your game, to adjust. I was playing really, really well in Sotogrande. I felt like perfectly, maybe not at the beginning, but then when I did some work, it was really solid and great. But when I came here, again I felt like I forgot how to play tennis because the balls were bouncing differently, the clay was a little bit different.

“It's annoying for me. You have hard courts for most of the season. You have clay court for some parts. The hard courts are different on each tournament. The clay courts are different on each tournament. It's the specifics of this discipline. So I have to find some distance and just not expect that I'm going to play perfectly.”


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