Iga Swiatek makes Aryna Sabalenka admission after their intense battle for year-end No 1 ranking

Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek after a match

Iga Swiatek concedes that Aryna Sabalenka would have “deserved” to finish the 2023 season as the year-end No 1 as she had “an amazing season” while she also acknowledged that the battle for top spot in the ranking “was a bit overwhelming” at one stage.

After first climbing to No 1 in the WTA Rankings in April 2022, the Pole spent 75 consecutive weeks at the top before she was replaced by Sabalenka after the US Open.

However, the Belarusian stayed there for just eight weeks as Swiatek bounced back at the season-ending WTA Finals as she won the title undefeated to finish the year atop the rankings with Sabalenka in second.

Swiatek feels she “exceeded all her expectations” in the end.

“It was certainly a demanding season that taught me a lot and which makes me even more proud. This year-end result exceeded all my expectations,” the 22-year-old told Eurosport Poland.

“The fact that I came back to No 1 and that it happened in Cancun with all the pressure and strange circumstances.”

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Swiatek and Sabalenka were involved in a brilliant tussle for the No 1 ranking throughout the year.

The Pole first came under pressure from Sabalenka ahead of the French Open, but she retained her title to keep top spot and then also managed to stay ahead after Wimbledon.

However, the pressure finally told at Flushing Meadows as Swiatek lost in the round of 16 while Sabalenka went on to finish runner-up to Coco Gauff.

It was enough to earn her the No 1 ranking, but Swiatek was not to be denied as she won the WTA Finals in Cancun.

Swiatek was full of praise for her great rival, but also acknowledged that she opted for a different approach.

“She deserved it,” the four-time Grand Slam winner said of Sabalenka. “She had a great season. She won a Grand Slam, was in the final of another Grand Slam and in two semi-finals, so it was an amazing season.

“I just preferred to focus on other things, because the pressure related to the No 1 spot was a bit overwhelming in the middle of the season.

“For this reason, I didn’t play very freely until the US Open, and then I knew that I just had to change this attitude and approach the next tournaments differently, just be a different player who didn’t focus on all that things. Although I always try to do it, but it doesn’t always work out.”