Tennis commentator Blair Henley remarked that Iga Swiatek without the pressure of being the world No. 1 is a concern for the rest of the WTA Tour.
The 4-times Grand Slam champion recently lost her position at the top of the rankings after 75 weeks, with Aryna Sabalenka taking over the No. 1 spot when Swiatek was unable to defend her 2022 title and after Sabalenka reached the final at Flushing Meadows.
Swiatek subsequently mentioned that it can be positive to relieve herself of the pressure, given that she is currently the player chasing Sabalenka, and coming from a slightly lower position to compete. Tennis expert Blair Henley expressed the opinion that she may even improve further from this position:
“It scares me for everybody else [on tour] to be honest when Iga’s like ‘Well let’s see what else I can improve now that I’m not necessarily the hunted one, the No. 1, now I can do a little bit of hunting. Maybe change my outlook when I’m working in the court a little bit’,” Henley said.
“She hit zero unforced errors in the match. It was interesting that many people saw her en route to that title using some different tools. One of them being the fact that if she wanted to take her foot off the gas slightly and be more of a backboard, she has the capability to do that.”
“Iga Swiatek has the capability to come to the net more,” he said.
“Her volleys maybe aren’t one of the strongest, haven’t been the strongest part of her game, there’s room for improvement there and we saw that… the more you come in to the net, the better those things are going to get,” Henley added.
At the moment, Swiatek is just over 600 points behind Sabalenka and still has a chance to finish the year as the world No. 1. Both she and the Belarusian have only the WTA Finals left on their calendars, although the Polish player would need a perfect campaign and hope for Sabalenka to be eliminated in the Round Robin stage. It’s a challenging scenario for Swiatek, but she still keeps her possibilities open.