World No 1 Iga Swiatek did what she had to do to see off Jule Niemeier and secure her place in the second round of the Australian Open.
On the back of her brilliant 2022 campaign that saw her win the French Open and US Open, Swiatek is a hot favourite to add the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy to her Grand Slam collection.
However, rising star Niemeier was no pushover as the German had two break point opportunities in game seven of the opening game before the Pole got the only break of the set in game 10.
The world No 69 then stunned the three-time Grand Slam winner in the opening game of the second set with a break but Swiatek hit back in game 10 and secured the victory with a second break in game 12 for the 6-4, 7-5 victory.
“Honestly, I really wanted to be focused on myself because I know Jule can serve amazing,” Swiatek, who faces Colombian Camila Osorio next, said. “At the US Open she was really using the fast conditions that we played in.”
The Pole rose to No 1 in the WTA Rankings in March last year on the back of Ashleigh Barty’s retirement. Many felt the game was robbed of a potential great rivalry when the Australian decided to hang up a racket.
During her on-court interview, Swiatek explained how fellow three-time Grand Slam winner Barty inspired her.
“Last year when I lost to her in Adelaide, I was like I have to do everything to learn how to get back this slice and cope with the change of rhythm,” she said.
“For the next few months I was really really motivated. I’m really grateful for that.
“Her tennis is amazing and she really pushed us to our limits and she still kind of won easily. She’s just a huge inspiration and the way she behaves, she’s so classy you know.
“It’s just – it just seemed like she really enjoys competing and like, having a challenge which I really admire because sometimes for me, a challenge is something that I tend to get nervous before so I really wanted to kind of have this mindset and she really inspired me to work on myself.”
Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina also reached the second round as the Kazakh player defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-5, 6-3 to set up a clash against Kaja Juvan.
The article Iga Swiatek holds off Jule Niemeier before paying tribute to ‘huge inspiration and classy’ Ashleigh Barty appeared first on Tennis365.com.