As a doubles champion ranked inside of the Top 15, Nicole Melichar can have her pick of partners. Heading into this year's Roland Garros though, she was left scrambling when her New York partner Xu Yifan struggled with visa issues.
She'd team up with 19-year-old Iga Swiatek just three days before the tournament began, and shared her thoughts on the entire experience on the TENNIS.com Podcast.
"I was really trying to find someone who I thought I had the potential of doing well with, so even though maybe some other players had reached out to me, I was still trying to find who I felt would best suit me," Melichar said. "I think I made a very good choice with Iga and, obviously, we had no clue that she was going to win the tournament."
Melichar and Swiatek would reach the semifinals, while Swiatek went on to win the singles crown just one day later. Unseeded, the Pole didn't drop a set and Melichar was in the stadium to watch her hoist the trophy.
"Actually, before the tournament we were joking, we were thinking about, we're like, 'Hmm, who's going to win the women's title?'" Melichar said. "As a joke, I was like, 'Oh, Iga Swiątek,'" adding that she thought there would be a first-time winner.
Quarterfinal ✅ ! Another great match for us today! Great playing @iga.swiatek, some long games and some frustration but we still are smiling and having fun????. Semifinals Friday!! . . . @neptune.athletics @rolandgarros @yonex_usa #beyondboundaries #fearthetrident???? #rg2020 #semifinalbound #onwardsandupwards #keepsmiling
As for her take on Swiatek, the 27-year-old American had only great things to say.
"I didn't really know her before, but she is a genuinely kindhearted person, and I like those type of people," Melichar said. "You never want to play with someone that you don't like. So, first of all, that was wonderful."
They meshed well as first-time, last-minute partners, with wins over recent US Open champions Vera Zvonareva and Laura Siegemund, veterans Kveta Peschke and Demi Schuurs and Americans Jessica Pegula and Asia Muhammad.
Melichar called their three-set loss to Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi "a winnable battle," and summed up the entire experience as "bittersweet".
Thank you @iga.swiatek for being an amazing partner this week. Today it wasn’t meant to be for us but I still loved to share the court with you! And thanks for being such a kind person off the court as well!! . Good luck @des_krawczyk11 and @aguarachi , you played your hearts out! I’ve known you both for many years now and I’m proud of both of you of how well you are doing! . Thank you @rolandgarros for making the event possible this year! We appreciate it very much. . Always learning, trying to grow. I won’t give up on my dreams. Onwards and upwards. . . @neptune.athletics #beyondboundaries #rolandgarros #rg2020 #fearthetrident????
"She always gave her best effort on the court," Melichar added of Swiatek. "Because of her singles I wanted to maybe teach her a little bit more doubles because, obviously, singles players if you don't practice doubles it's different.
"Her instincts were so good. I felt like it was hard for me to tell her something because she felt the ball so well."
They say the best doubles players can win with anyone and Melichar has proven she's one of the best. Even just this summer, she won World TeamTennis with Coco Vandweghe, reached the final of "Cincy" and the US Open with Xu and won Strasbourg with Schuurs.
Melichar pointed out that her strategy for picking partners isn't based on ranking since her current spot of No. 11 pretty much guarantees entry into any draw. She focuses instead on who she can mesh with both on and off the court, like she did with young Swiatek.