Eurosport expert Mats Wilander thinks losing the No. 1 ranking could be the “best thing that can happen” to Iga Swiatek’s game.
She released a social media statement following her exit to say she was “surprised” by “how much people talk and write about ‘defending’, ‘defence’ – of titles, ranking position, points”, while she also suggested she was looking forward to starting with a “clean slate” next season.
And Wilander believes that her dethroning is exactly the impetus Swiatek, who has four Grand Slam titles aged 22, needs to improve her game.
“I think this is most probably the best thing that can happen for her tennis,” said Wilander.
“There’s a reason for her to start working on her game again and figuring out what happens to her when she plays against big hitters now she doesn’t have to [worry about being world No. 1],” he said.
“But she’s right in the statement about defending. We turn into a bit of a negative, we talk about defending, defending points, so I think it’s time for her to step aside and work on her game a bit.”
John McEnroe, alongside Wilander, said Swiatek was a “fantastic” world No. 1 and has compared the “pressure and expectation” on her to when he was thrust into the spotlight after Bjorn Borg unexpectedly retired.
McEnroe and Borg had a fierce rivalry as they faced each other in four Grand Slam finals in 1980 and 1981, and battled for the world No. 1 spot.
But the rivalry came to an abrupt end when Borg retired at the age of 26.
Swiatek was in a similar position last year when she became world No. 1 following Ashleigh Barty’s surprise retirement, also aged 26.
Reflecting on Swiatek’s run at the top of the rankings, Eurosport’s McEnroe said: “This happened to me when Bjorn Borg stopped out of nowhere, everyone freaked out.
“It was like ‘what?!’ and they put more of their attention on me. I was like ‘what, I’m still the same guy, and it’s not that much different’. And I felt a complete difference. And I am sure she has as well when she inherited the No. 1 ranking,” he said.
“She has done a fantastic job for the most part. Of course there is more pressure and expectations. The No. 1 player is looked at more carefully, you have to accept and expect that.
“She won the US Open last year, she’s won three French Opens, she’s carried herself proudly, she has done a fantastic job all in all. But you are the hunted, people are coming after you.”
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