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‘I was crying for a long time’ – emotional Swiatek confused over Barty retirement

An emotional Iga Swiatek was caught off guard by Ash Barty’s retirement announcement. The Pole had been focusing her energy on catching up with the legendary Aussie.

Iga Swiatek, Australian Open 2022 Iga Swiatek, Australian Open 2022 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Ash Barty’s sudden retirement from tennis creates an opening at the top of the WTA rankings for current world No 2 Iga Swiatek to climb through. But that wasn’t the first thing on the 20-year-old’s mind when she heard the news that the world No 1 was saying goodbye to the sport at the age of 25.

“I was crying for a long time,” Swiatek told reporters during her pre-tournament press conference at the Miami Open. “I mean, there was lot of confusion in me, for sure. But also, like, sadness because I always – I mean, when I think of the player that is really complete in terms of physicality, mentality, tennis-wise, I always thought of Ash and I always looked up to her. I mean, I still do.

“It would be really nice also to be able to compete against her for next few years and actually try to play better and better, to be able to beat her slice. We’re going to miss her, for sure.”

Swiatek the next No1?

There’s a chance that Barty will decide to exit the WTA rankings system, which would catapult Swiatek to No.1 immediately. But it’s not a certainty and Swiatek, who is currently 2204 points behind Barty in the WTA rankings, wants to focus on tennis first.

A Glance at the WTA’s Current Top 5

  • 1. Ash Barty – 7980 points
  • 2. Iga Swiatek – 5776 points
  • 3. Maria Sakkari – 5085 points
  • 4. Barbora Krejcikova – 5033 points
  • 5. Aryna Sabalenka – 4862 points

Swiatek said when she learned of Barty’s retirement while resting in her hotel room on Tuesday night she was in a state of surprise. She believes the decision is up to Barty and prefers not to worry too much about it.

“I had whole night basically,” she said. “To be honest, at first it was really emotional for me. I didn’t know about all the rules. I actually didn’t even know you could choose being removed because I didn’t follow any other athletes that were retiring. … I don’t want to really talk about it because it’s Ash’s decision. I think she has all right to do, like, both things.”

The 2020 Roland-Garros champion says that getting to No 1 would be special no matter what. But she was excited about doing it the hard way. After winning the Indian Wells title she decided that one of her main goals was to chase down Barty in the rankings. She never expected that she might catch her without even playing.

Swiatek practiced specifically to counter Barty’s slice

Having recognised that Barty is the premier talent in the women’s game, Swiatek spent a good part of her off-season learning to counter the Aussie’s legendary slice.

“I even spent like two weeks of my pre-season working on slice, on playing against slice,” Swiatek said. “I mean, I don’t feel like it’s a waste of time, but… I mean, in other light, I felt like I may be close in some time. It was really motivating me. I still have many things that are motivating me. For sure winning against Ash someday would [have been] something very special for me.”

The Pole says that just two days ago, after winning Indian Wells, she started to believe that she could make a run at Barty and overtake her for world No.1.

“For sure it would be for me something special to be world No. 1,” she said. “I never expected that, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen that way. Actually after Indian Wells it became my goal. It’s pretty weird for it to be my goal for two days and it may actually happen that quick. But still it’s a longshot because it’s her decision. I think we got to wait for her to speak about that.”

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