Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka pulls out of Qatar Open, assures Iga Swiatek of one whole year as World No. 1
Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has pulled out of the WTA 500 Qatar Open, assuring World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of completing 52 weeks atop the rankings. She will do so on April 2. The tournament, meanwhile, begins in Doha on February 13.
Sabalenka beat reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a riveting final at Melbourne Park on January 28. She became the 59th different player in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam singles title.
With the triumph, the Belarusian extended her perfect start to the year to 11-0 and returned to her career-best ranking at World No. 2. However, she trails Iga Swiatek (10,485) by nearly 4400 points.
Meanwhile, Swiatek suffered a surprise fourth-round loss at the Australian Open, going down in straight sets to Rybakina.
The 21-year-old is expected to defend her Doha title next week. Interestingly, Doha is a 500 tournament this year, while it was a non-mandatory WTA 1000 event in 2022.
Iga Swiatek's dominance could end in 2023 - Barbara Schett
Last year, Iga Swiatek enjoyed one of the most dominating seasons by a player on the WTA Tour in recent memory. The Pole won a tour-best 67 matches and eight titles, including three WTA 1000s and two Grand Slams.
Swiatek captured the Doha (500), Indian Wells (1000), and Miami (1000) titles, which means she will be defending 2500 points in the three events. Swiatek won a staggering 37 matches since losing to Jelena Ostapenko in the Dubai round. Her run was then snapped by Alize Cornet in the third round at Wimbledon.
During this period, apart from her three aforementioned triumphs, Swiatek also won titles at Stuttgart (250), Rome (1000), and Roland Garros (2000). That means she will be defending nearly 6000 points before the grasscourt swing commences.
Former player Barbara Schett reckons the emergence of other players could end Swiatek's 'dominance' this year, telling Eurosport:
“What can people expect from the women’s tour? It’s all open. Remember, Swiatek dominated the whole WTA Tour, but this year, I think it’s going to look very different."
"Of course, Iga will be in the mix, but there will also be Sabalenka, Rybakina, Pegula, it’s going to be very exciting and we’re going to see lots of different Grand Slam finals. That sole domination of Swiatek might finish."
It remains to be seen how the Pole will fare this season when the chasing pack has her number.