‘I nearly died’ – Iga Swiatek opens up on alarming skiing accident after US Open win

Iga Swiatek at the US Open

US Open champion Iga Swiatek helped herself to a New York bagel to get her US Open title defence off to the perfect start – and then she revealed that she lived through as a near-death experience when she was just seven.

The 22-year-old from Poland dropped just eight points as she took the first set to love against Rebecca Peterson.

Sweden’s Peterson did get on the board early in the second but Swiatek, bidding for a fifth Grand Slam title, completed a comprehensive 6-0, 6-1 victory in just 58 minutes.

“I really wanted to play solid and start the tournament with everything I practised on,” she said.

“I’m happy to play such a great game and despite all the pressure and expectation, I can still have fun on the court.

“I am happy this was such a nice first round because they can be tricky. You don’t have time to adjust to the court and get used to everything and sometimes you feel a little more pressure.

“You can get distracted more easily and when I played my first matches at the US Open, I always felt there was a lot going on and you can get distracted, but I didn’t feel that this time.”

Swiatek then took part in an engaging press conference when she was asked about the support she is receiving from skiing greats Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, before she was asked whether she was a fan of the winter sport and offered up this surprising answer.

“Oh my God, the last time I skied was when I was seven and I had an accident that I could have died, so I really got scared,” she said.

“I don’t get scared that easily, but for sure stopped me. I am sad that no I am a pro I don’t have time to do sports like that and I wish I could.

“This was a traumatic experience for me when I was young, so it was wise to stop. When you are scared of such sports that you need higher adrenaline, you need to be focused and ready, it can be pretty dangerous.

“I feel like our sports are connected. This is a sport where women have the same events and rhythm as the guys and when I hear interviews with Mikaela, it feels I’m kinda the same. It’s nice to have someone you can look up to who shares the same experience.”

It was an interesting exchange with a player who is always an interesting interview subject, even though the sporting public outside of the tennis world struggle to embrace a match like Swiatek’s one-sided contest on Monday.

While it seems harsh to suggest Swiatek’s win was anything less than a masterclass in efficiency, comprehensive victories of this nature leave the audience feeling a little cold.

The French Open champion is simply too strong for almost every player in the women’s draw, with the scale of her domination failing to highlight the full range of her talents.

That may explain why Swiatek has yet to make a big connection with some sports fans despite her position as the world No 1, with her class on the court hard to appreciate when the opposition is so systematically torn apart.

Sport needs to be competitive to keep an audience engaged and Swiatek’s tendency to win sets without dropping a game and barely losing any points makes the spectacle a little hard to embrace.

There was an early upset on day one at Flushing Meadows with eighth seed Maria Sakkari from Greece bowing out 6-4, 6-4 to Spanish world No 71 Rebeka Masarova.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon champion, had no such trouble, dispatching Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1.

Victoria Azarenka, a three-time finalist, beat Fiona Ferro 6-1, 6-2 and Czech 10th seed Karolina Muchova sank Storm Hunter of Australia 6-4, 6-0.

READ MORE: WTA battle for No 1 ranking: What Aryna Sabalenka needs to do at US Open to replace Iga Swiatek at No 1