Pole position as Swiatek secures No.1 spot

 - Alex Sharp

Roland-Garros 2020 champion Iga Swiatek has risen to world No.1 in the rankings off the back of some scintillating form.

Iga Swiatek / Indian Wells 2022©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

There is a new torch-bearer in women’s tennis.

17 months ago, Iga Swiatek arrived in Paris for Roland-Garros 2020 as an outsider, ranked No.54, eager to do some damage in the draw. Well fast forward to March 2022 and the Pole is at the peak of the tennis world.

Unfortunately, Ash Barty announced her retirement from tennis last week, but the Australian heaped praise on the 20-year-old taking on the world No.1 baton.

"There is no better person. The way that she's brought this fresh, fearless energy onto the court has been incredible.” said Barty. "I hope she can take it and still be her, do it her own way, and really chase what she's after in her career and her dreams."

Barty’s words struck the same sentiment as the whole tennis community, with social media canvassed in congratulations messages from players past and present.

Ash Barty & Iga Swiatek / Madrid 2021©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

"My goal is to stay at No.1 and continue what I am doing"

So, in taking over at the top, Swiatek is the 28th woman to capture the WTA No.1 ranking, just the 10th active player to do so. Edging towards her 21st birthday, she’s also the youngest player to make her debut at the top since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.

"I am really satisfied and proud of myself for reaching the No.1 spot," Swiatek said at the Miami Open, as the first man or woman from Poland to ascend to singles No.1. "I feel like my tennis is going the right way and my goal is to stay at No.1 and continue what I am doing.

“The thing is, I never really imagined that moment because, truth to be told, I was working day-by-day and playing tennis well, but I never had the strong belief that it can actually happen. So, it’s even more surreal for me.”

From becoming the lowest-ranked Roland-Garros champion since rankings were introduced in 1975, Swiatek has enhanced her consistency and fine-tuned an athletic, explosive and captivating game.

2022 has been another launchpad. Back in Melbourne Swiatek advanced to her maiden hard court Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open. Since then the 20-year-old has lifted back-to-back WTA 1000 titles at the Qatar Open and Indian Wells.

Over to the Miami Open and having seen the Barty news break, Swiatek knew victory over Viktorija Golubic on Friday night would secure the No.1 ranking.

Swiatek took it all in her stride with a 6-2, 6-0 scoreline, well, on the outside. On the inside the Pole had to harness her extensive mental fortitude.

“I'm pretty sure that tomorrow the sun will shine exactly the same way as today but for now...it feels surreal,” she posted on Instagram. “Let me just say that I proved myself a lot in the last couple of days. No.1!!”

Woman on a mission

Over the weekend Swiatek extended her career-best winning streak to 13 matches, brushing Madison Brengle aside with another dominant 6-0, 6-3 display to chalk up a blockbuster last 16 bout with Coco Gauff on Monday.

The 20-year-old is playing like a woman on a mission in Miami, to rubber stamp the number now next to her name.

"I don't know what's going to happen after the tournament and the adrenaline will go down and I have more time to stress about that a little bit more, but for now I feel great. It's not like it's bothering me, it's more motivating me,” stated Swiatek.

"I know the ranking can be pressure, but on the other hand when I was climbing up and I entered Top 10 and Top 5 I felt the same feeling, and right now I don't want to repeat that. So I just focus on my game.”

Iga Swiatek / Indian Wells 2022©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

Coming off her title triumph at Indian Wells last week, Swiatek is vying to become just the fourth woman to achieve the ‘Sunshine Double,’ along with Steffi Graf (1994, 1996), Kim Clijsters (2005), and Victoria Azarenka (2016). 

For now, reflections on her accomplishment are not a priority.

“Maybe the hype is going to be a little bit bigger, but I’m ready for it. And honestly, it’s part of the job,” suggested the level-headed Pole, before a very ‘Iga’ line.

“From my perspective, I don’t think anything will change. Maybe I’ve got to watch if I’m wearing clean clothes and representing tennis well. I’m going to be careful with that. But honestly, I’m the same person.”

Time for Iga to rule in her own way.