(Reuters) – Some of the world’s top tennis players criticised Australia’s strict hotel quarantine rules ahead of the Australian Open but for French Open champion Iga Swiatek it was almost a source of relief, allowing her to escape the limelight that followed her Roland Garros triumph last year.
The 19-year-old went from being a largely unknown teenager ranked 54th in the world to acquiring celebrity status when she won the French Open title and she had to quickly adapt to her new-found fame back in Poland with sponsorship deals and a deluge of media requests.
Swiatek, now in Melbourne ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season, said quarantining had allowed her to stay out of the spotlight, although she counted herself lucky not to be among the 72 players not allowed out to practise because of COVID-19 cases on their flights to Australia.
“During quarantine, I could practice and I could go out for five hours a day. I was one of the lucky ones,” Swiatek said. “It was okay. I mean, after all the fuss that was in Poland, it was nice to be in another place, rest, focus on working.
“Obviously I sometimes needed to go out, to breathe some fresh air, but I couldn’t do that. It’s not a problem. I’m really glad that we have a chance to play, to do what we love.”
Swiatek’s life was turned upside down after she became the youngest woman to win the French Open since Monica Seles in 1992 and the Pole said she was embracing the extra obligations that came with her stardom.
“It’s not bothering. It’s nice,” she said. “Right now I feel like there are more eyes on me.”
Swiatek said she would not be fazed by the hype surrounding her heading into the Australian Open, which begins on Feb. 8.
“I don’t feel more pressure than before. I’m trying to keep my expectations low,” she added.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)