‘It’s helping other athletes’ – Iga Swiatek praises Mikaela Shiffrin, who compares her to Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer

Iga Swiatek has expressed her admiration for record-setting ski superstar Mikaela Shiffrin and discussed comparisons between the two.

Having spent 42 weeks as world no. 1, the 21-year-old is gunning for a fourth Grand Slam title in Melbourne and her 6-0, 6-1 third-round win against Cristina Bucsa would leave few betting against her.

Speaking after the match, Swiatek revealed that she takes inspiration from American Alpine skier and Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, widely regarded as one of the best skiers in the world.

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The 27-year-old recently matched the women’s record of 82 Alpine World Cup wins and is just four behind the overall record of 86 held by Ingemar Stenmark, which she will be expected to break in due course.

Off the piste, Shiffrin has also spoken up about mental health and raising awareness for those suffering.

Swiatek, who has also been vocal on the subject, was effusive with her praise for Shiffrin.

“We’ve never met, but we always invite each other to things!” she started “We’re in a constant circle because we’re both really busy.

“I really appreciate what Mikaela is doing about mental health. She’s a champion, and speaking about all the things she struggles with, it’s helping other athletes to understand what it’s like to be an athlete, and what challenges we face, and how to overcome them.”

Due to their obvious successes in their respective fields, comparisons between the two have been made but Swiatek sought to play down any similarities.

“I’m not comparing myself to her, because the sports are so different. There are no similarities between skiing and tennis! It’s obvious that she’s going to break the record. It’s hard to deal with that when all eyes are on you, and you have to remain patient and down to earth, working hard to achieve that.

“In sport, nothing comes for free. I really like how she dealt with that. The way she skis, she doesn’t often get injured. It’s not overly aggressive. It’s a healthy way to ski, and a healthy way to see out the whole season.”

Swiatek won her second French Open title in 2022 as well as the US Open and is looking to add the Australian Open crown to her collection this year.

She is yet to drop a set so far in her three matches in the tournament and faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the last 16.

‘I’m not comparing myself to her’ – Swiatek on friendship with Shiffrin

However, Swiatek, although aware of her status as the tournament favourite, is keeping her feet firmly on the ground and taking each match as it comes.

“I feel like I’m more and more confident since day one here. I’ve done so much work to feel more confident, and be more relaxed on court. You can feel the rhythm a bit more.”

“I don’t feel like the tournament starts now, because the first rounds are also challenging – they’re different challenges. Tennis is unpredictable. I’m treating every match separately, no matter what round it is, and I’m keeping the same mindset.”

‘She reminds me of Nadal, Federer’ – Shiffrin

The love-in between the two superstar athletes continued following Shiffrin’s fourth-place finish at the women’s downhill World Cup event at Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Speaking afterwards, the American was asked about Swiatek’s praises and responded in kind, even admitting she could learn something from the Polish star.

“First of all I love how she plays tennis,” she told Eurosport. “I think her style is so beautiful. It’s a methodical and beautiful at the same time and reminds me of, I don’t know, Nadal or Federer or something like that.

“She also has such an incredible mentality about tennis, about competitions. Being young and having so much success already in her career, she’s staying focused on, in my opinion, the right things and that’s really cool to see and actually something I can learn from.”

Shiffrin also echoed Swiatek’s belief about the importance of being open about mental health in sport.

She added: “For so many athletes now, especially athletes at the top, it’s finally this conversation… sometimes, when you feel pressure, sometimes it’s good to be in that position, but sometimes it just feels heavy and you have to deal with both sides of it But it’s better to know that there’s other people who feel the same way.

“So when we share those stories, for other athletes it’s helpful, but also for people in general, I think everybody deals with that on a daily basis, so it’s more normal than we thought 10 years ago.”

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Stream the 2023 Australian Open live on discovery+the Eurosport app and at eurosport.co.uk.

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