CNN  — 

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek says support from a sports psychologist was a key factor in helping her to win the French Open final on Saturday.

The 19-year-old became the first player from Poland to win a grand slam singles title after beating No. 4 seed Sofia Kenin, 6-4 6-1.

Swiatek was unseeded at Roland Garros and, despite feeling confident ahead of the season, hadn’t been playing her best in the build up to the tournament.

However, she showed nerves of steel in storming to victory, becoming the first female to win the French Open without dropping a set since Justine Henin in 2007.

It was a turnaround in fortunes she partly credits to working with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz, who watched the final from the player’s box.

The pair have worked together for almost two years and Swiatek has been open about working hard on her mental game.

“It’s a long process,” Swiatek told CNN Sport. “It helped me during the whole tournament especially after coming back from Covid break.

“We did great work the last few weeks to lower my expectations and come back to basics and just focus on having fun on court.

“She helped me a lot during that process but also she’s helping me develop as a person and as a player.”

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Iga Swiatek celebrates winning the French Open in Paris.

‘Couldn’t believe it’

Abramowicz travels to major tournaments with the teenager but also works with elite athletes from many of Poland’s national teams.

Speaking to the WTA in September, she said the younger generation of sports stars appear more comfortable when talking about their mental health.

“With Iga [Swiatek] I really appreciate that she’s so aware at this younger age,” said Abramowicz. “I do appreciate that a lot and I respect it a lot as well.”

Swiatek served up the perfect birthday present for her mind mentor on Saturday, with Abramowicz tweeting her congratulations after the match.

“It’s simply the best birthday gift of my life,” she wrote on Twitter.

Despite boasting an impressive junior career – Swiatek won the 2018 Wimbledon juniors – victory in Paris was certainly not expected at this stage of her career.

Her expression after winning championship point showed just how surprised she was.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Playing good tennis, winning grand slams seemed so distant to me, so achieving that is kind of a weird feeling and I just couldn’t believe it.”

Swiatek pinpointed her fourth-round victory over Simona Halep as a key turning point for the Pole at the French Open.

Halep was in great form and was fully expected to progress past her teenage opponent but Swiatek brushed the Romanian aside in little over an hour.

“Before I had a problem with playing under pressure because I felt great in practices and then, in a match, suddenly my tennis was a little bit worse,” said Swiatek.

“But in this tournament, I finally realized that I can do it and I just need to be mentally prepared and have a proper mindset.

“I never really felt that I was really going to win the tournament because I knew, in the final, I was going to play against a great champion.

“When I realized that I was thinking about winning the tournament I tried to push those thoughts away and just focus on working because I think it would stress me.”

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‘She inspired me’

Swiatek says she struggled to sleep the night after lifting the trophy and has been overwhelmed by the messages of support she has received.

Beaten men’s finalist Novak Djokovic and Polish soccer star Robert Lewandowski are now two of her most high-profile fans, while Noami Osaka was tweeting her support throughout the final

The pair have become close on tour and Swiatek says the two-time grand slam champion has been a constant source of inspiration during her fledgling career.

“She inspired me even before we met because she was one of the girls that won a grand slam when she was an underdog,” she said.

“I’m really glad we’re texting sometimes because it’s really nice to have someone who’s so experienced and someone who can really help prepare you.”

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Naomi Osaka has become friends with Swiatek on tour.

Father’s influence

Sport runs through Swiatek’s family, with her father representing Poland in rowing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

He was in Paris to watch his daughter lift the trophy and the pair celebrated with the rest of the family in the player’s box moments after victory was sealed.

“I think we’re always focused on work because of him because he had high expectations that we were going to get good grades and we were going to have good practices,” she said, speaking of her father’s influence.

“Sometimes these expectations are not a good thing because they are pressure for a child but in my case, I think it really helped me because I learned how to be professional.

“My sister got injured when she was 15 and she stopped playing tennis but she has a great brain and she is studying really well so I think we’re both going to be successful.”

Even after winning the French Open, Swiatek hasn’t entirely forgotten her studies either.

The teenager has taken a gap year out from her academic pursuits but says she hasn’t ruled out heading to university at some point in the future.

“I think I have a lot to learn about certain aspects of life,” she said. “At some point my brain is going to need something other than tennis. But I know being a tennis player means I’ll be busy.”