Eurosport expert Chris Evert believes Iga Swiatek has “a target on her back” and is still “the player to beat” on the WTA Tour.
It is coming up to a year since Swiatek turned world No. 1, following Ash Barty’s surprise retirement, and she has a big lead over the rest of the tour in the WTA rankings.
“We know she has the game physically,” Evert told Eurosport’s Arnold Montgault. “We know she’s a great competitor, and she’s a great athlete. She’s got wonderful tools, and a wonderful skill-set in tennis. But it seems like in the matches that she’s lost, that emotional part has broken down.
“[Novak] Djokovic is almost like a machine. He goes out there and, you know, he can just have that tunnel vision and focus and not let his emotions get in the way. I think Iga has shown in some matches that she has let her emotions get the best of her.
“So she would just have to be aware of that, I think. But she is still the player to beat, no matter what you say.
“She will lose once in a while, but she’s still the player to beat, and she does have a target on her back. Nobody understands the pressures of being number one unless you are number one. Nobody understands that, and it does take a while to adjust.”
Swiatek praised by Wilander, Robson and Henman for honesty after defeat
After losing to Barbora Krejcikova in the Dubai final at the end of February, Swiatek posted a message on social media which mentioned: “I can see that some of you have higher expectations of me, but well… I’m just human.”
Asked about her thoughts on Swiatek saying that so openly, Evert said: “I think Iga is an emotional person, and I think the mental and the emotional side of the game will, at times, present challenges to her as it has in the past.
“She’s not a machine. She’s a young woman that feels deeply, and I just think that has been a discipline for her to learn to stay calm in matches and to learn to not panic and to not get anxiety.
“Historically, she has talked about the fact that she gets anxious in life and on the tennis court.”
Twelve months ago, Swiatek was in the early stages of an incredible streak that saw her go 37 matches unbeaten, the most from any player this century.
A slight dip in form followed, but then she won the US Open, her third major. The ever-increasing standard on the women’s tour has seen other players, including Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula, Caroline Garcia, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Rybakina and others emerge as big challengers to Swiatek.
However, Evert feels that Swiatek is still a step above the rest and says she has not seen the Pole play as well as she is now.
“I think she’s playing better than ever,” explained Evert. “That was obvious when she had that streak, she was just annihilating her opponents. Then she didn’t play as well against Pegula and maybe didn’t play as well against Krejcikova.
“It’s like every once in a while she’s going to have a match where she’s not 100%, but I still think she is the most dependable player and the most consistent out there.
“Not only that, but she can hurt an opponent with the way she takes the ball early and her athleticism. Her average game, she’s still going to win nine out of 10 matches. So I think she’s playing better than ever.
“She has a sports psychologist on the team because the emotional and the mental part are very important in tennis now, and you just have to know how to manage that. I think she is getting better and better at that.”
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