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Swiatek still trying to adjust to top dog status: “I feel like I have a target on my back”

After an exceptional 2022, Iga Swiatek has now been ranked as world No 1 for almost a year now and the Pole is well aware of great expectations around her

Iga Swiatek at the 2023 Dubai Open Iga Swiatek at the 2023 Dubai Open Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Since the retirement of Ash Barty, the WTA Tour has found itself a real boss in Iga Swiatek. The Pole won eight titles in 2022 including a second and third Grand Slam titles, at Roland-Garros and the US Open, and was also unbeaten for 37 consecutive matches. The 21-year-old has been firmly established as world No 1 for 11 months, with a very comfortable lead over her closest rivals.

But this season, the clock has been reset and Iga Swiatek was knocked out in the fourth round of the Australian Open when she was the overwhelming favorite. After a few weeks of rest, the Pole got back on track by winning the 12th title of her career in Doha, losing only five games en route to the title. She then reached the final of the WTA 1000 in Dubai, only to be beaten by Czech Barbora Krejcikova. People expect Swiatek to win all her matches these days, an unrealistic expectation according to the Pole.

“After Doha and Dubai, I felt it (the expectation) pretty strongly,” Swiatek said at her pre-tournament press conference in Indian Wells. “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 surprised, not happy with the performance, just critical.”

Swiatek: “I think I’m doing well”

“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, ‘oh, that’s not enough. I feel like there’s a target on my back a little bit, which I didn’t feel last year,” the 21-year-old added.

Swiatek will start at Indian Wells in the second round this Friday against the American Claire Liu, the 56th-ranked player in the world. Defending champion and big favorite to win for a second year in a row, the Pole has a lot of pressure on her shoulders in California. A new status for her but a situation she manages well, as she explained to journalists.

“It’s a different situation, and I have to adjust to that. So I’m trying not to read a lot of these things. I don’t want it to influence me because I’m happy with all the work I’ve done. This is the example of how people’s attitudes changed a little bit – and I don’t think it’s a positive change – but for me for sure there is more pressure and expectations because of that. But I’m trying to [cope with] that in the best way possible. I think I’m doing good,” she said.

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