A year into rise to No.1, Swiatek tuning out expectations

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Growing up in Poland, a young girl named Iga Swiatek dreamed of many things. One of them wasn’t becoming the No.1-ranked tennis player in the world.

“Because,” she said Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Open, “I thought it was not possible. “It’s something that is so over my expectations. It’s a place where anyone wants to be. But for sure, it comes with a lot of pressure and expectations.”

And after a sensational season that saw her win a total of eight titles — including two of the four majors — and snap off a 37-match winning streak, Swiatek is finding those outside expectations are leaking into her personal cocoon. In a Media Day appearance before a dozen reporters, Swiatek was brutally honest.

“After Doha and Dubai, I felt it pretty strongly,” Swiatek said. “Because I won a WTA 500 and was in the final of a 1000 — it was like a small streak of matches that were pretty solid and I was really composed. But, still, I lost in the final and people were, I don’t know, surprised, not happy with the performance, just critical.

“And it made me think that last year before this huge streak and before winning all these tournaments I would be so happy with this result. But with all these comments right now, I felt like, ‘Ooooh, that’s not enough.’”

Last April 4, Swiatek ascended to the No.1 ranking with the retirement of Ashleigh Barty. Swiatek was 20 years old. She dominated from that lofty spot and currently holds a 4,485-point advantage over No.2-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, your 2023 Australian Open champion. To put that in perspective, Novak Djokovic is the No.1 player on the ATP Tour, with a total of 7,160 points. There are 11 players closer to him than Sabalenka is to Swiatek.

several weeks, when she’s competing at the Miami Open, Swiatek will have been the top-ranked player for 52 weeks, a full year. That will place her No. 12 on the all-time list, one ahead of Victoria Azarenka — with Simona Halep (64) and Caroline Wozniacki (71) next in her sights. And the fact that those 52 weeks are consecutive, places her in even more impressive company. Only eight women will have remained No.1 for longer over a single stretch; Justine Henin (61) is No.8.

Swiatek says she’ll be focusing on the in-season Hologic WTA Tour’s Race to the WTA Finals.

“I want to stick to not coming back to what happened last year,” she said. “Every tournament is a different story. Honestly, if I play well, I’ll be high in the rankings. So I’m pretty sure I’m not going to defend all the points, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to stay at No.1.”


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