MELBOURNE: French Open champion Iga Swiatek says she is finding it tough to deal with the weight of expectation at the Australian Open following her maiden Grand Slam triumph in October.
The Pole went from being a largely unknown teenager to acquiring celebrity status when the 19-year-old became the youngest woman to win the French Open since Monica Seles in 1992 and the first to do so without dropping a set since Justine Henin in 2007.
Swiatek has since climbed to a career-high ranking of 17 and will start her Australian Open campaign against Dutch world number 74 Arantxa Rus.
"Actually I feel like more pressure than usual," Swiatek told reporters on Saturday. "It feels a little bit different on court because I feel like people are not treating me as an underdog any more, and I have to adjust to that.
"But I want it to be the same. I want to enjoy the tournament ... I'm just going to try to lower my expectations and remember that it doesn't matter if I'm underdog or not, everybody is starting from the same position when they're on court. I'm going to work with that."
Swiatek said she was trying to enjoy the "small things" and not think too much about the major.
"I'm trying to enjoy that I'm here, forget about the tournament, forget about my practices, just living in the moment and being happy that I can travel and I can be here," she said.
"We're going to go to the beach right now after the media (conference), so maybe that's going to help."
Having not played since her Roland Garros triumph, Swiatek was looking to get some matches under her belt ahead of the year's first Grand Slam by going deep into the Gippsland Trophy warm-up event.
However, after crashing out in the last 16 to Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, Swiatek will be crossing her fingers that her competitive instincts kick in quickly.
"I hope I'm going to be in kind of a flow during Australian Open and I'm going to be competing very well," she said.
"I think a few more matches would be perfect for me to play before the Grand Slam."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)