Iga Swiatek, who landed in Australia ahead of the 2023 United Cup, has reflected on her unimaginable 2022 season that took a turn for the better after former World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty’s retirement.
In a press conference in Brisbane on Wednesday, the Pole confessed that she felt out of place when she was handed the World No. 1 spot by default after Ashleigh Barty withdrew herself from the rankings. She further remarked that she felt the need to prove herself to the world as well as to herself in order to fill the Aussie’s shoes.
"I didn't really think it's possible for me," Iga Swiatek revealed. "When (Ashleigh Barty) retired, I felt mixed emotions because I felt like she still has the best tennis out there. She really inspired me to work harder and her different game style made me realize that there is always room for improvement.
"At first I felt like I wasn't sure if this is kind of my place to be, you know. Ash, she seemed like a huge role model for everybody in terms of, you know, her behavior on court but also off court. So I felt like she really put - how's it called? She really set the bar pretty high. So, I (needed) to show it to people but also show it to myself that I'm in the right place," she added.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek, who now faces the enormous task of defending 11085 ranking points, which she earned in the record-setting 2022 season, suggested that she wants to start anew and not hold on to the past year.
"I'm going to try to kind of cut off everything that happened last year and just focus on the future, because I feel like I can take a lot of experience from these tournaments last year, but I don't want to really like hold on to that too much, because I want to go forward and kind of focus on my next goals," the World No. 1 said.
"It has been amazing to see her flourish" - Ashleigh Barty's encouraging words for Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek’s ground-breaking season saw her feature in nine finals and lift eight titles, including two Grand Slams at the French Open and the US Open. She also won four WTA 1000s in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome, and two WTA 500s in Stuttgart and San Diego.
Her predecessor to the throne, former World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, recently had high words of appreciation for the young tennis phenomenon.
"She is a breath of fresh air and she has completely and utterly dominated this season. She has been a level above, a head above the rest, and it has been amazing to see her flourish," the Aussie said earlier this year.
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