After seeing Iga Swiatek stroll to victory at the China Open, Eurosport tennis expert Alex Corretja expects her to be back at the top of the world rankings in the not too distant future.
Despite losing the No.1 berth to Aryna Sabalenka earlier this year, Swiatek’s 6-2 6-2 win over Liudmila Samsonova in the Beijing final gave her a tour-leading fifth title of the season.
The win will ensure an exciting battle to end the year in top spot, with the season-ending WTA Finals starting in Cancun at the end of October.
Assessing how Swiatek has bounced back from dropping down to second in the world standings, Corretja said: “She’s a fighter.
“She is someone that, it doesn’t really matter for her. If she’s going to be No. 1 or No. 2, she’s showing all the time that she wants to improve. That she’s trying different things, that she’s also been a little bit more open.
“I think she’s understanding that she’s not playing for one or two tournaments. She’s playing for the next 10 years.”
Corretja thinks the backing of Swiatek’s coaching team has played a key role in refocusing the Polish player.
“When you are on court, you are on your own, but you have a team surround you, behind you, that brings you a little bit the ideas of what you can improve and what you need to do,” Corretja, a former world No. 2, said.
“I think it’s just great to see that maybe she lost the No. 1 but, for her, it was not a devastating situation.
“She just played better and better and she’s going to be there for so many years and she will come back to No. 1 at some point again. This is going to be very interesting.”
As for Sabalenka, her first Asia swing as world No. 1 saw her suffer a quarter-final defeat in Beijing to Elena Rybakina, but Corretja thinks she should not be panicking, despite that disappointment.
He said: “I think you spend so much time thinking and dreaming and practicing and working to become No. 1 that probably once you achieve that, it’s normal to have a little bit of a down, a little bit of a relief, a little bit of time to understand what’s going on.
“What people expect from you, also fans, also yourself from you when you go on the tournaments. How much expectations you have, how much you think you need to play better because you are the best or the No. 1 in the world.”
Despite coming unstuck against Rybakina, Sabalenka enjoyed victories over Sofia Kenin, Katie Boulter and Jasmine Paolini at the tournament.
Corretja added: “It is different when you lose [in the] first round and you play bad. But if you play and you lose against someone that is very good, that shouldn’t be a worrying situation for anyone.
“Because if you would be, let’s say, No. 3 in the world and you’re losing the quarters against Rybakina, you won’t be surprised. Why should you be surprised because you are the No. 1?
“It’s just that you’ve been more regular through the whole year, you have more points, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot lose to anyone anymore.”
The 2023 season started with Sabalenka taking her first major title with victory at the Australian Open – where she beat Rybakina in the final.
Since then, she has reached Grand Slam semi-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon before being a beaten finalist at the US Open.
Those results – as well as victories at the Adelaide International and the Madrid Open – saw Sabalenka’s stock rise to a place where she overtook Swiatek as the top-ranked player in the women’s game.
Corretja knows regular perfection is hard to come by.
“If they are the Slams, if they are the Masters 1000 or the Masters at the end of the year or whatever, then you need to be ready and give your best,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to lose matches against other players because this is almost impossible in a game where you lose pretty much 85% of the time.
“Maybe you win five tournaments if you play an unbelievable season. But if not, it’s normal that you lose at some point during the tournament.”
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