Pressure related to the No. 1 spot was 'bit overwhelming', reveals Iga Swiatek

IANS Photo

IANS Photo

NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 8 (IANS): Top-ranked female tennis player Iga Swiatek expressed that the pressure of defending her World No.1 status was overwhelming in the middle of the season. She added that Aryna Sabalenka would have been deserving of finishing the year at the top of the world rankings.

After winning her maiden WTA Finals title, Swiatek has reclaimed the World No. 1 spot that she had ceded to Aryna Sabalenka after her disappointing fourth-round loss at the US Open earlier this year. The Pole had been on top of the tree for 75 weeks from April 2022 to September 2023.

"It was certainly a demanding season that taught me a lot, and which makes me even more proud. This year-end result exceeded all my expectations. The fact that I came back to No. 1 and that it happened in Cancun with all the pressure and strange circumstances," Swiatek told Eurosport Poland.

Sabalenka won her maiden Grand Slam to open 2023 in Australia and reached the final at the US Open, rising to the top spot for the first time in her career. But her defeat in the semifinals of the WTA Finals to Swiatek cost her the chance to end the year as the World No. 1.

But Swiatek acknowledged the chance of the Belarusian finishing the year at the top. Surprisingly, she welcomed this possibility, expressing satisfaction as her focus lay elsewhere, feeling that the weight of being No. 1 could be a bit overwhelming.

"Before the tournament in Beijing (China Open), the probability that I would return to this place was so small that no one expected it, and neither did we. I've probably come to terms with the fact that Aryna will become number one at the end of the year. She deserved it. She had a great season. She won a Grand Slam, was in the final of another Grand Slam and two semifinals, so it was an amazing season," Swiatek said.

"I just preferred to focus on other things, because the pressure related to the No. 1 spot was a bit overwhelming in the middle of the season," said the World No. 1 Pole.

"For this reason, I didn't play very freely until the US Open, and then I knew that I just had to change this attitude and approach the next tournaments differently, just be a different player who didn't focus on all those things. Although I always try to do it, it doesn't always work out," she added.

The upcoming year appears to pose challenges for the top female players worldwide, with the revised WTA calendar featuring an increase in the number of 1000-level tournaments to 10. Madrid and Beijing will now span two weeks, featuring larger draws.

Moreover, The Paris Olympics will also be slotted in between Wimbledon and the US Open.