Iga Swiatek column: French Open favourite on Rafael Nadal, Real Madrid and Paris

Iga Swiatek

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

The Polish player, 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 fourth round on Monday to extend her streak to 32 matches.

Winning my fourth-round match at the French Open on Monday was kind of an early birthday present - because I turn 21 on Tuesday.

It is always pretty hard to celebrate when you are in the middle of the tournament, but I hope I'm going to have time on my day off to do something.

I never plan things for my own birthday - it's not like I'm going to throw a party in the locker room!

I just hope I will get a proper rest after practice. But I heard my team have prepared something fun for me - so we will see.

As everyone knows I am a Rafael Nadal fan and I would love to watch his match against Novak Djokovic.

I will be too curious about what will happen not to see it, but I will watch on TV rather than at the stadium.

I watched Rafa's last match against Felix Auger-Aliassime, although not the full game because it was so long.

During the tournament I need to be focused on my own preparations, my rest and my routine. That's why I won't be going to watch the quarter-final in the stadium.

But, like always, I'll be rooting for Rafa.

Recently I went to Rafa's academy in Majorca and saw all his trophies in the museum he has there.

I got more excited about those trophies than the ones I saw when I went to Real Madrid's stadium, although they were impressive too.

I was really in awe at seeing the Grand Slam trophies Rafa has won, of course.

But I was also amazed at all the others, like the trophies he has won at Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome. There are so many!

It was amazing to see the consistency he has had during his career and seeing all his trophies was really inspiring.

Iga Swiatek celebrates winning at the 2022 French Open
Swiatek has won her past five tournaments - in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome - and lost just two of her past 46 sets

Missing Madrid was hard - but refreshed me

After winning the Sunshine Double at Indian Wells and Miami, I had a few days off, so was able to reflect on what I had already achieved this year.

At first, it did feel kind of weird winning all these matches because last season I won two tournaments but lost many more matches.

So I didn't know a sustained level of success like I've had this year would be possible.

I also had time to reflect on my recent achievements when I was in Madrid. I went there to play but had to withdraw from the tournament because of a shoulder injury.

It was a good idea for me to take a few days off. That meant I felt refreshed and started the process again in Rome.

It was good to forget about all the previous matches and the winning streak for a moment because you don't want that much weight on your shoulders.

So I stayed in Madrid for two days and I went to all the tourist attractions you have to see, including a trip to the Bernabeu.

From Madrid I went to Palma in Majorca, where I had some time on the beach and also went to some art fairs.

All of these things helped me to avoid thinking about tennis for a few days.

But then it was quickly back to business in Majorca, where I went to Rafa's academy to practise and prepare for the French Open.

Then it was on to Paris, where it always feels great to be back. I have so many wonderful memories after winning my first Grand Slam here in 2020.

After being on the WTA Tour for a few years now, it is really nice to have found different places in different cities where I like to relax.

Melbourne and New York are the same for me in the sense that they make me feel at home. That is very important for me.

I like to have places on tour where I know, that the food is good and the people are friendly.

I also try to act like a tourist and see some things; last week we went to Palace of Versailles.

It was amazing and one of the best things I have ever seen in my life.

What made it more amazing was that I didn't check it out on the Internet before I went, so I didn't know what to expect.

When I arrived, I was like, 'wow!' I actually wondered why people only think of the Eiffel Tower when they think of Paris. Versailles was so much nicer.

It was also nice because it was not as busy as the Eiffel Tower. It doesn't seem to be the first choice for people when they think of Paris.

I don't know if I'm going to any more cool places in Paris on my birthday, but if not then I'm sure I will get the opportunity soon. I'm always excited about what's next on tour.

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

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