Iga Swiatek enters a crucial phase where her No. 1 ranking is again under serious threat, with Aryna Sabalenka chasing her from all sides.
Sabalenka’s Australian Open win last month, coupled with Swiatek’s costly early defeat at the same tournament, had ignited interest again in the No. 1 spot just when it looked like the Polish star was embarking on another winning spree.
Swiatek had won 16 straight matches when she jetted into Melbourne Park in January. A lot of people predicted she would win her first Australian Open in such an irresistible form, and who could argue?
Swiatek had beaten each of Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula in one tournament at the end of last season to win the season finale in Cancun. So, if any of them landed in Swiatek’s way at the Australian Open, they would surely be eliminated.
But the 22-year-old stumbled in the third round as an inspired Linda Noskova produced the upset of the tournament. With the Australian Open now behind the rearview mirror, the Pole’s lead at the top is only 865 points ahead of the Middle East swing.
Sabalenka was a favorite to take over as the World No. 1 at the end of the month. While that scenario could still materialize, Sabalenka will not be able to overtake Swiatek at the end of the Qatar Open.
The Belarusian has announced her absence from the star-studded WTA 1000 event in Qatar’s capital, and it looks like her return from Grand Slam winning form will take place at the second WTA 1000 event of the Gulf region in Dubai.
Swiatek is expected to add to her 9,300 points, which she will start the week with in Doha (set to drop 470 points from winning the tournament last year), where she will be the top seed.
Sabalenka, therefore, will remain on 8,905 points and can only add to her points tally in Dubai. So Swiatek is safe for now and will keep the No. 1 ranking at least until February 17th, when the tournament in Doha comes to an end.