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Rafael Nadal, the 13-time champion, trains at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Coco 'Starstruck'; Swiatek Shares Court With Nadal

Swiatek still overwhelmed to say "Hello" to Spanish superstar

When Rafael Nadal gives you praise, it would be hard not to smile. Even the mention of his name can bring about a grin. This was the case for WTA stars Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek on Friday who were overwhelmed when the Spanish superstar was mentioned.

The 17-year-old Gauff has had a remarkable rise since winning the 2018 Roland Garros junior title. This has has understandably led to recognition from those within the sport, with 13-time champion Nadal the latest to compliment the American, deeming her “great with aptitude”. This news brought a beaming smile to the teenager’s face who is in awe of the Spaniard.

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“Oh, that's pretty cool to hear, to be honest,” said Gauff. “It feels pretty good. Obviously, [he is] somebody [that] I look up to, and walking around I still get starstruck by him, like it's Rafa Nadal. So, it's pretty cool that he said that about me.”

Nadal’s success and reputation is so great that leading stars in their own right still struggle to muster up the nerve to even say “Hello” when they cross paths with the 34-year-old. This has been the experience for Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champion and World No. 9, who grinned and admitted she had not yet had the confidence to approach Nadal and discuss the sport.

“Maybe we're going to have a chance to do that later, but we just had like a quick small talk last year, and yesterday he said ‘Hi’ to me,” Swiatek smirked. “For now, I'm too overwhelmed to even say ‘Hi’. I'm a big fan of his, and if I'm going to have a chance to ask him some stuff and also learn from him, it would be great, but we are both busy, so I know it's going to be hard to schedule that.”

But as luck would have it, Swiatek and Nadal met on the practice court Saturday, exchanging a fist bump and even hitting some balls.

During Roland Garros, Nadal and Swiatek will celebrate their birthdays, while in Rome, they saved match points on their way to the title. They also both won their first Grand Slam trophy aged 19. When asked about these connections with her idol, Swiatek confessed that she has thought about these parallels, but it unsure of what to make of them.

“I thought about it, but I also think it's kind of weird,” Swiatek said. “I don't know what to say, because it's also some kind of superstition when you look at that stuff and try to compare each other. But, yeah, I know it's weird.”

Meanwhile for Gauff, Nadal is insistent that she does not need advice from him. The American, who will be looking to reach the third round in Paris for the first time in her career, is not so sure though.

Gauff said: “I know [that] he says I don't need advice, but anything from Rafa would be great (smiling).”
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