Swiatek starts from scratch in Indian Wells WTA title defense

tennis08 March 2023 23:04| © AFP
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Iga Swiatek © Getty Images

Iga Swiatek, learning to navigate the expectations piled on a world No 1, says she's looking forward not back as she launches her title defense at the Indian Wells ATP and WTA Masters.

The 21-year-old from Warsaw took tennis by storm in 2022, her early-season victories including prestigious wins at Doha, Indian Wells and Miami.

She'd finish the year with two Grand Slam titles at the French Open and US Open, but said Wednesday she is trying to "not really think about what happened last year and remember that's a different story."

Swiatek was toppled by Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open round of 16, and after defending her Doha WTA title last month she was stunned in the Dubai final by Barbora Krejcikova.

"Sometimes it's also important to remember that you can lose," Swiatek said. "There are other players who are also playing great tennis. Last season spoiled me a little bit."

She admitted that a stream of easy match wins – she hasn't played a three-setter this year – might have let a little complacency creep in.

"I still have to kind of remember that I'm going to have tight matches and to fight for every ball," she said.

While she and her coach assess each defeat and work to make adjustments, she said she tries to tune out criticism from outside.

Swiatek herself was pleased with her play in Doha and Dubai – noting that reaching both finals was, in fact, a strong result even if her loss to Krejcikova, a former French Open champion now 30th in the world – drew scrutiny.

Happy with the work

"Last year, before all this huge streak, before winning all these tournaments, I would be so happy with the result, but because of these comments right now I felt like 'Oh, that's not enough,'" she said.

"So I'm trying not to read a lot of these things and I don't want it to influence me because I'm happy with the work I've made and with how I played in, Doha and Dubai."

Swiatek's No 1 ranking is safe through Indian Wells and Miami, but she'll be up against a quality field in the California desert, where she's seeking to become just the second woman to defend the title after Martina Navratilova in 1990-91.

After a first-round bye she will open against either Alison van Uytvanck or Claire Liu. She could face a potentially tricky third-round clash with 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada.

Two other former champions are in the field, 2021 winner Paula Badosa of Spain and Belarussian veteran Victoria Azarenka, who won in 2012 and 2016.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka is the second seed, aiming to improve on a 2022 showing that saw he rbow out in the second round.

Sabalenka will open against Evgenya Rodina, who beat France's Alize Cornet 6-2, 7-5.

Home hope Jessica Pegula is seeded third and Ons Jabeur, a semifinalist here in 2021 is seeded fourth in her first tournament since the Australian Open.

The Tunisian missed the WTA's Middle Eastern swing after undergoing minor knee surgery.