Iga Swiatek column: French Open favourite on reading Agatha Christie, Alexandre Dumas & George Orwell

Iga Swiatek

WTA world number one Iga Swiatek is back as a BBC Sport columnist at the French Open.

The 20-year-old from Poland, who won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2020, is the heavy favourite at the clay-court major and won in the third round on Saturday to extend her streak to 31 matches.

Reading is one of my biggest passions away from the tennis court, it's a big factor in keeping me relaxed and focused on the main goal of winning matches and playing good tennis.

I've just finished reading Murder on the Orient Express, the novel by Agatha Christie about the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Actually, I finished it about 40 minutes before playing my second-round match against Alison Riske.

The reason I allowed myself to finish the book then was because I knew I wasn't going to cry at the end. But that has not always been the case with some novels!

My team have to be aware when I'm going to finish a book in case I get too emotional too close to a match.

For example, I was reading Gone with the Wind at the US Open last year and my psychologist Daria Abramowicz was trying to monitor when I was very close to the end.

She really wanted to make sure that I didn't finish the book just before a match. She was absolutely 100% sure I was going to cry my eyes out - and she was right!

That wasn't the case with Murder on the Orient Express, though.

I really enjoyed it and while I was reading I didn't know if I should focus on trying to solve who the murderer was or if I should just read without trying to play a detective.

To be honest, I'm not that creative to solve this type of problem. I wouldn't make a detective. It was impossible for me to guess who it was.

Iga Swiatek celebrates winning her second round match against Alison Riske at the 2022 French Open
Swiatek has not dropped a set in her opening three matches at this year's French Open

I finished the book in two days and I have a long list of more books that I want to read.

Recently I read The Count of Monte Cristo and I have just started The Three Musketeers - another one by French author Alexandre Dumas.

I was also thinking about reading George Orwell but Daria says it is probably better not to during a tournament because it requires a lot of consideration about life and it's not the best way to relax.

What else is on the list? I read To Kill A Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye is another classic I want to read.

I mostly enjoy reading fiction. But I'm mixing it up. Recently I read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which is a book of 21 essays answering questions about today's global agenda - for example, on modern politics, climate change and the impact of technology.

'I only know one other person on tour who reads the same books'

Not many of my friends read similar books. I tried to convince my sister Agata that she could read more but she is finishing university so she has a lot of books to read that help her with her studies.

The only person I know on the tour who is reading as much as me is Kaja Juvan. She is one of my best friends, so we talk about books.

But I don't want to force people to read the same stuff, I feel it is a personal thing.

I always have a book or the Kindle in my pocket. I read during tournaments but of course I read the most when I have time off and I'm in a park or on a beach.

I feel when I don't have time to read, it's time for me to chill out a little bit more.

Not being able to take the time to read is a sign that I'm doing too much. I feel like it really clears my mind.

I love the feel of a paper book on my fingers but I do use a Kindle as well. For many years, I was like 'no, I should read actual books rather than the electronic versions'. But then with all the travelling it got too hard to actually carry so many books.

For my 20th birthday last year I got 20 books given to me by my management team - that was one of the best gifts I have ever received in my life.

Gone with the Wind and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century were among these books, while the others included Becoming by Michelle Obama and The Gold Mine Effect by Rasmus Ankersen.

That bundle has kept me busy, especially when I was on the road for about three months in the busy period around the French Open and Wimbledon.

I'm still reading in Polish but I actually want to try reading in English. At the moment I feel that I'm studying when I'm doing that. I feel like it's not relaxing.

I feel like my life is too intense to study at the moment but I would love to further improve my English.

Reading will also help me do that - when I eventually get the time - but for now I am pleased it is part of the process that is helping me win matches and perform well.

Iga Swiatek was talking to BBC Sport's Jonathan Jurejko at Roland Garros.

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