Iga Swiatek has said she "would love" to play Serena Williams for the first time in her career as the two prepare for their first round matches at the Cincinnati Masters.
Swiatek is world No. 1 after winning six tournaments this year, including Roland-Garros, but she has never played her predecessor and 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams.
Time could be running out after Serena announced her intentions to withdraw from tennis following the US Open.
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And Swiatek admitted she's struggled even to meet one of her heroes, who she remembers watching on TV.
"I would love to just see how it is to see her on the other side of the net,” Swiatek said.
“I have a hard time catching eye contact with Serena. It’s tough because she always had so many people around her, and I'm pretty shy and when I look at her I kind of forget that I'm here as the world No.1.
“I feel like I'm the kid from kindergarten.”
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With a win in Cincinnati, Swiatek could become the first player since Williams to win seven titles before the US Open. Yet she has endured a relative drought this summer after failing to win her last three.
Swiatek said that she has tried to take a step back and think long-term, rather than obsessing over wins.
“I'm trying to look long term at whole process and maybe think [where I want to be] in the next season,” Swiatek said Monday during her pre-tournament press session. “It's more my team who is kind of like convincing me that I should think long term.”
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But of course, with Cincinnati on the immediate horizon, Swiatek is focused on the tournament ahead and adapting to difficult conditions.
She admitted to having struggled last week in Toronto after being knocked out by eventual runner-up Beatriz Haddad Maia in windy conditions.
“I didn't even know that it's going to be like that. And it was hard to even prepare, you know?
“When she was playing with the wind, she was playing really strong balls,” Swiatek said. “And sometimes I was late for them. And on the other hand she was able to put it in.”
Swiatek, however, remained unphased by the challenge and accepted she must be able to compete in diverse conditions on a busy tour.
“But I'm trying also to learn how to play in different conditions because it's so key, just when you're changing places every week. I feel like first part of the season I was pretty lucky because there were some really windy days and I didn't play during these days.
“So right now I'm also trying to be prepared to anything.”
Swiatek begins her tournament against American Sloane Stephens, with Serena starting off against Britain's Emma Raducanu.
The two are on opposite sides of the draw, so a tantalising final between the two champions could provide a dream setting for an overdue clash.
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