Iga Swiatek has lauded retired champion Ash Barty as an ongoing inspiration after the world No.1 got her Australian Open campaign off to a shaky start.
Open officials were breathing a sigh of relief after the Polish ace scrambled to a 6-4 7-5 first-round win over German Jule Niemeier on Monday night.
On a day they lost men's drawcard Nick Kyrgios to a knee injury, Swiatek looked in danger of joining the exodus of superstars before reeling off four straight games in the second set to seal victory.
Swiatek then paid tribute to Barty, who the 21-year-old replaced at the top of the rankings following the Australian great's shock retirement last March.
She said the 2022 Open title winner, who will be at Melbourne Park assisting local youngster Olivia Gadecki and possibly presenting the trophy to the new champion, had helped take her game to new heights.
"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."
Swiatek is now level with Barty with three majors with her best performance at Melbourne Park coming last year with a semi-final showing.
The top seed added her second at Roland Garros last year while also claiming the US Open title.
Swiatek also faced big-hitting Niemeier at Flushing Meadows, coming from a set and a break down to win in three.
While she looked fairly comfortable in the first set on Monday, Swiatek's serve went AWOL 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.
"Besides being really nervous, I really enjoyed it," she said.
"I'm pretty happy to get through this match. It was really tricky."
It was Swiatek's first match since she pulled out of the Adelaide International with a shoulder injury after being left in tears by a 6-2 6-2 hammering from American Jessica Pegula at the United Cup.
Swiatek next faces Colombian Camila Osorio on Wednesday