Iga Swiatek's touching nod to Ash Barty after Australian Open victory

The World No.1 was full of praise for the Aussie tennis great after her win.

Iga Swiatek (pictured left) during an Australian Open press conference and (pictured right) Ash Barty holding a trophy.
Iga Swiatek (pictured left) praised retired Australian champ Ash Barty (pictured right) following her round 1 win at Melbourne Park. (Getty Images)

World No.1 Iga Swiatek has paid special tribute to Aussie legend Ash Barty after her first-round win at the Australian Open. Swiatek was challenged in her opening match against German Jule Niemeier as she battled back from a second set deficit to win 6-4, 7-5 on a warm Melbourne night.

Swiatek at one stage looked like she could be pushed to a decider, but the Polish ace was determined not to join the exodus of players at this year's Australian Open as she rattled off four straight games in the second set to seal the victory.

CONTROVERSIAL: Aus Open under fire over glaf photo during women's match

'LOST FOR WORDS': Aussies in epic display after Nick Kyrgios drama

'CONCERN GROWING': Novak Djokovic in fresh drama at Aus Open

"That was a great match today, I am so happy to be back in Melbourne," Swiatek said post-match. "I am really enjoying being here on and off the court. I am really grateful for you and your support."

However, in her post-match press conference, Swiatek opened up on the influence Barty had on her 2022 season. Barty ended a 44-year drought for Australian players at last year's Aus Open to take the title. The then-World No.1 was the dominant player on tour and didn't drop a set on the road to the title in Melbourne.

The Australian then stunned the tennis world when she announced her sudden retirement after the grand slam. Swiatek admitted at the time she was sad at the announcement after praising the classy Aussie for her demeanour on and off the court.

And on Monday, the reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion opened up on how her last loss to Barty triggered a change in her attitude.

"Last year when I lost to her in Adelaide, I was like 'I have to do everything to learn how to get back this slice and cope with the change of rhythm'," Swiatek said.

"For the next few months, I was really, really motivated. I'm really grateful for that. She's just a huge inspiration and the way she behaves, she's so classy.

"It just seemed like she really enjoyed competing and having a challenge, which I really admire because sometimes for me a challenge is something that I tend to get nervous before. So I really wanted to kind of have this mindset and she really inspired me to work on myself."

The Melbourne crowd gave Swiatek a huge applause after the honest assessment.

Swiatek has previously spoken about Barty's slice as one of the biggest weapons on the WTA Tour when she was a player. Barty changed the game with her all-rounded skill set, dangerous slice and accurate serve.

Swiatek is now level with Barty on three grand slams having won two French Open titles and the US Open.

The World No.1 and Barty also recently took to the court for a charity event at Melbourne Park in the lead up to the Australian Open.

Retired Australian tennis player Ash Barty (pictured left) and Poland's Iga Swiatek (pictured right) share a laugh at the 'Kids Tennis Day' ahead of the Australian Open.
Iga Swiatek (pictured right) has been full of praise for retired tennis player Ash Barty (pictured left) ahead of this year's Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Iga Swiatek advances after tough round 1

Swiatek had a tough task against power-hitter Niemeier in the opening round, which was a rematch from Flushing Meadows.

While she looked fairly comfortable in the first set on Monday, Swiatek's serve went astray as she trailed 5-3 in the second against the World No.69.

She only managed to get 49 per cent of first serves in for the match. But Swiatek was able to Barty-like problem solve around her service issue and showed her class when it counted.

The World No.1 admitted she was nervous heading into the first grand slam of the year.

"Besides being really nervous, I really enjoyed it," she said. "I'm pretty happy to get through this match. It was really tricky."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.