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"I never expected that": Iga Swiatek's No. 1 ambitions take surprise twist with Ashleigh Barty's retirement
With the Australian confirming her request to be removed from the WTA rankings, results at the Miami Open will determine whether the 20-year-old Pole becomes the next player to occupy the top spot.
Published Mar 24, 2022
TC Live: Reacting to Barty's retirement
Iga Swiatek's No. 1 ambitions got a surprising—and confusing—twist when top-ranked Ashleigh Barty announced her immediate retirement from the sport Wednesday in Australia.
The 20-year-old from Poland rose to No. 2 this week following her title victory in Indian Wells, and had admitted that she was only now starting to think about reaching No. 1 for the first time in her career.
Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, was coming in more than 2,200 points behind Barty in the rankings, but had far less to defend in the next few weeks and could have caught up to the Aussie with some deep runs at big events like this week's Miami Open.
But with the 25-year-old Barty deciding to stop playing, Swiatek's ascent to No. 1 could happen even sooner—in less than two weeks, if she wins her opener in Miami. It would be "pretty weird for it to be my goal for two days" and get there so soon, said Swiatek.
"I actually didn't even know you could choose being removed because I didn't follow any other athletes that were retiring," she told press, speaking before Barty confirmed she would ask to be taken off the rankings following Miami.
"Still, I mean, I don't want to really talk about it because it's Ash's decision. I think she has all right to do, like, both things.
"For sure it would be for me something special to be world No. 1. I never expected that, if it's going to happen it's going to happen that way.
"But still it's a long shot because it's her decision."
Despite the potential implications for her own ranking, Swiatek's first reaction to the retirement concerned Barty herself.
"But really yesterday when I heard the news, mostly I was really emotional, not because of my position, but more because of her retiring at such a young age," she said, and was then asked if she could understand it.
"Not completely, honestly," said Swiatek. "Actually she's even saying that she doesn't expect people to understand.
"I really respect and I really think she's brave that she has made this decision because with all the expectations around, I mean, there is not many people who would stop at this point and put their happiness on the first place.
"I think that's an example not only for us tennis players or another athletes, but every person."
But like a lot of players, she says it's unfortunate for the game that Barty will no longer be on tour.
"I was crying for a long time. Yeah, I mean, there was lot of confusion in me, for sure. But also, like, sadness because when I think of the player that is really complete in terms of physicality, mentality, tennis-wise, I always thought of Ash and I always looked up to her. I mean, I still do. It would be really nice also to be able to compete against her for next few years and actually try to play better and better, to be able to beat her slice," said Swiatek.
Still, she knows she'll still have plenty of competition for No. 1 from her fellow players going forward, with four players within 1,200 ranking points of her at the top of the rankings.
Barty, speaking at press conference in Australia, said she will ask to be removed from the rankings and was happy to have the to spot going to Swiatek. "She's an incredible person, a great tennis player," said Barty.
Swiatek, the second seed at Miami, will start against Viktorija Golubic.