Iga Swiatek reflects on losing No. 1 spot: "Last 1.5 years was observing how much people talk about 'defending'... I don't need to defend anything"

Iga Swiatek will drop to World No. 2 after the 2023 US Open
Iga Swiatek will drop to World No. 2 after the 2023 US Open

Iga Swiatek penned a heartfelt note, reflecting on her 2023 season so far and her first stint as the World No. 1, having lost the spot at the ongoing US Open.

Swiatek, who was defending her US Open title, was knocked out of competition by Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round of the tournament. As a result, she also failed to guard her World No. 1 spot, which was on the line in New York. She will be replaced by Aryna Sabalenka come Monday, September 11.

The Pole has now reflected on her debut reign of 75 consecutive weeks, which started in April 2022. Taking to social media, she stated that she spent the last 17 months observing how the tennis world focused on her defending titles as well as her ranking.

Swiatek won a staggering eight titles last season. In 2023, she managed to defend just three of the seven titles contested so far - at the Qatar Open, the French Open, and the Stuttgart Open. She confessed that she was influenced by the pressure from the media at the time, but now realizes that she doesn’t need to ‘defend’ anything.

“Last 1.5 year was a time of observing and experiencing how much people talk and write about “defending”, “defense” - of titles, ranking position, points… I was surprised sometimes to start to think this way because of this. But… I don’t need to defend anything and this is a good moment to write down some thoughts,” the 22-year-old wrote on Instagram.

Swiatek, who won a new title at the Poland Open this year, shared her approach to competing. She revealed that she prefers starting every new season with a ‘clean slate’ and wishes to focus on simply winning tournaments rather than defending her titles from the past year.

“For me sport is a cycle of constant changes exactly like in everyday life, we can either win or lose - that’s it, it’s so simple. New season, next tournament, new opportunities to GAIN, ACHIEVE, not defend something. Clean slate,” she added.

"I will create many more chances to win, to achieve my goals and not to defend" – Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek at the 2023 US Open
Iga Swiatek at the 2023 US Open

Iga Swiatek, who lost in the semifinals of the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Open before her US Open fourth-round exit, said that she was aware of people’s expectations of her during the North American hardcourt swing.

“During this year’s US swing I could win and achieve more, that’s for sure. I know some of you expected more, many of you expected "defending" the no 1 ranking, the title,” she observed.

The four-time Grand Slam champion, however, reiterated that, with help from her team as well as the sports’ finest, she will be working hard to win and achieve rather than defend.

“But I stick to my mindset: when I work hard, I’m developing myself and doing my job, I will create many more chances to WIN, to ACHIEVE my goals and not to defend. The way to do it is to constantly focus on my high standards in what I do and learn from the best in this sport and from my team,” she said.

Swiatek concluded by reminiscing about her phenomenal journey as the World No. 1 and thanked everyone for their consistent support.

“And yes… What a journey it was as a number 1 in women’s tennis! Thank you for being with me on this. I will try to appreciate this time before I go forward, trying to achieve more,” she added. “Last but not least... Many thanks for all your support and positive messages you're sending me. It gives me a lot of energy to work hard.”

Iga Swiatek’s 75-week-long reign as the World No. 1 is the third-longest debut in WTA history - behind Steffi Graf (186 weeks) and Martina Hingis (80). The Pole is also already ranked 10th in the all-time leaders’ list.