Iga Swiatek would have reached No 1 ‘even if Ashleigh Barty hadn’t retired’, says tennis great

Iga Swiatek celebrates

Iga Swiatek was always destined to become the world No 1 and she would have claimed top spot even if Ashleigh Barty didn’t retire, according to tennis icon Chris Evert.

The 20-year-old Swiatek became the first Polish No 1 on Monday as she replaced Barty, who bowed out of tennis in March, at the top of the WTA Rankings and she celebrated her rise by winning the Miami Open.

The 2020 French Open champion has been on an impressive run so far this year though as she is 17-0 having won three consecutive WTA 1000 tournaments, having also won the Qatar Open and the Indian Wells Open.

Swiatek has always been tipped for bigger and better things and Evert feels it was only a matter of time before she reached No 1 as she likened her “hunger” to that of ATP star Carlos Alcaraz.

“I always have thought that to put together seven matches in a Grand Slam was really hard, to be at a high level, but she’s put together 16,” the 18-time Grand Slam winner told Eurosport.

“To put together 16 matches in a row with this field with this depth in the women’s game and not having a real dip, not having a let-down, is almost unheard of in the women’s game and that’s what makes her so special and that’s what makes her the number one player in the world.

“I think even if Ashleigh Barty hadn’t retired, Iga would have reached the No 1 spot.

“What impresses me about her is – very much like Alcaraz – is the hunger. I keep going back to hunger but she wants it so bad, she wants it so badly and she’s so committed to the game that she forces herself to be in the moment and she’s in every single point.

“And that mental strength of hers is really propelling her to the top. She’s mentally the toughest player out there by far right now, she’s on another level.”

Swiatek added Tomasz Witkorowski to her coaching set-up during the off-season and Evert feels it is one of the reasons why she has moved up a gear.

The American continued: “Game wise, she has such explosive movement. She has explosive shots, shot making. The way her mindset has changed from a counter puncher to an aggressive player with the help of her new coach.

“I think the new coaching has helped. I think what impresses me is I haven’t seen anybody that has excelled defensively as well as offensively. She’s got both those components.

“And the way she steps into the court and attacks every ball with consistency is an asset that she has.

“So again, melding, putting together the physical and the mental strengths, makes me believe that she is not a one-time Grand Slam winner. She’s going to be double digits.

“She’s looking at a long career and she’s viewing it as an adventure, as a positive adventure and not looking at the pitfalls. Her attitude is wonderful.”