Remember. That was less than six months ago. Ashleigh Barty, world number one just crowned her home title at the Australian Open, took the tennis world by surprise when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The WTA lost its boss. The one which, finally, seemed likely to install a little stability at the top of the hierarchy.
After her, the deluge? No. After her, Iga Swiatek. Having become number one automatically since she was Barty’s runner-up, the Polish woman assumed her new status with unexpected authority. It’s been a long time since a champion has dominated the circuit like this. So much so that today there seems to be a chasm between her and the rest of the world.
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From the beginning, she did not bow down under the weight of this particular honor, since inherited rather than conquered by herself. But his double Indian Wells – Miami, just after the surprise announcement of Ashleigh Barty, helped to give him credit. As if this leadership role suited him like a glove. In any case, he had no hold on her. “She immediately seemed very comfortable in the skin of the N°1, underlines our consultant, Mats Wilander. I don’t think it changed anything for her. She is looking for something else: the fact of constantly progressing.”
Since then, Swiatek has hardly ever faltered, apart from a slightly more neutral summer, between Roland-Garros and the US Open. But his season is exceptional, with now seven titles to his name:
Two in Grand Slam: Roland-Garros, US Open
Four in the WTA 1000: Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome
One in WTA 500: Stuttgart
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For the first time in six years, a player has won two major titles in the same season. We had to go back to 2016 and Angelique Kerber’s victories in Australia and the US Open to find traces of such a performance. And Iga Swiatek is still only 21, which makes his accomplishments in the current season even more remarkable. “We sometimes forget how very young she is still“, recalls the former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters.
Her domination is such that the Polish now has more than double the points of her runner-up in the standings, Ons Jabeur. Suffice to say that she can see it coming. His series of 37 victories, which began at the end of winter and ended at the start of summer at Wimbledon with a defeat against Alizé Cornet, also made an impression. At the end of this US Open, she has now won seven titles and 57 of her 64 matches played in 2022.
Since Serena Williams began a gradual decline, first very relative then more and more marked, women’s tennis has sometimes been decried for this form of anarchy and instability at the top of the hierarchy. With Ashleigh Barty, this criticism had found a first limit. It is in the process of totally disappearing with the now very assertive reign of Iga Swiatek. “She sets the bar very high and, for our sport, it’s great,” said ONs Jabeur as a tribute on Saturday evening.
“For me, she plays a different tennis, believes Mats Wilander. His way of moving, of hitting. She is apart. And she seems to be so hungry for titles. That’s why in the short term, it will be difficult to curb.” That the month of March seems far away.
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