Ashleigh Barty has set up a 'real exciting' clash with her French Open successor Iga Swiatek in the next round of the Madrid Open, with both women showing impressive form on clay.
Barty won the French Open in 2019, her first Grand Slam title, but took the decision not to defend it 2020 due to safety concerns through the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, teenage Iga Swiatek surprised everyone by winning the title and in doing so become the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title ever and the lowest-ranked French Open champion in the history of the WTA rankings.
Now the two will meet for the first time competitively, having only practiced together once before and both players seem to be looking forward to the clash as much as each other.
"Real exciting. Look, a match that I look forward to," said Barty.
"She's got a seriously impressive game. Moves very well, can slide off both legs, controls her body really well on clay. Likes to use her hopper, gets around, controls the court with her forehand."
Meanwhile Swiatek is eagerly awaiting Monday's last-16 showdown too, as she laughed: "I'm not really focusing that I should win - because I shouldn't!
"I just want to play a nice match and have fun playing with world number one."
"I really respect her ... It seems too easy for her," said Swiatek.
It's now 13 straight victories on clay for Barty, while Swiatek, in her first claycourt tournament since that title-win at Roland Garros, will be hoping to make it nine in a row on the red dirt.
Barty was asked if she had any regrets not defending her French Open title in 2020, but she said it was the right decision for her and she's targeting a winning return this year.
"There was no frustration, absolutely not. I know I made the decision to not go and play for the right reasons," she recalled.
"I have absolutely no regrets about that.
"It was tough to come to terms with knowing I wasn't able to go and try to defend my title, but it's all good. I get another opportunity in a few weeks' time."
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