Iga Swiatek puts her rise to world number one on the same level as her French Open win in 2020 but the 20-year-old Pole says she feels much better prepared to handle the pressure of her latest career milestone.
Swiatek, who will replace retired Australian Ash Barty as No. 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday, went from being a largely unknown 19-year-old ranked 54th in the world to acquiring celebrity status after her win at Roland Garros.
But she found it extremely difficult to adapt to her new-found fame back in Poland and struggled to get to grips with increased media demands and sponsorship deals.
“There is more excitement, because after winning Roland Garros - I can actually compare these two experiences, it’s like on the same level - I felt a lot of doubt and I didn’t really know what’s going to happen and how I’m going to handle that,” Swiatek said. “But right now I feel more prepared and I feel like I’m in a better place. So there is more excitement and more satisfaction and actually positive thoughts and emotions. Because after Roland Garros, it was really a mess.”
Swiatek credits her work with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz for her improved mental strength. While defeat had once felt like her world was falling apart, the Pole says she is now much better prepared to handle adverse situations.
The 6-3, 6-1 victory over teenage American Coco Gauff marked a career-best 14th straight win for Swiatek, who has already won WTA 1000 titles in Doha and Indian Wells this season.
“After Roland Garros, we also started to kind of prepare for the success, and there are going to be tough moments and there is going to be a huge amount of pressure,” Swiatek said. “I have been doing well cutting off the expectations from the outside. It was always, for me, harder to deal with my own expectations that I had for myself.”
In the men’s game Miami Open top seed Daniil Medvedev moved a step closer to reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking as he beat Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last 16.
Medvedev, who can replace Novak Djokovic in the rankings if he reaches the Miami semi-finals, fired down 14 aces and broke Martinez three times to secure victory in 84 minutes.
“I just felt like I had to be more consistent, and the more consistent one today would win,” Medvedev said. “I managed to just make a few less errors at important moments, serve even better, and it was a small margin but I managed to win and I’m really happy.”
Up next for the Russian, who lost the number one ranking after a surprise third-round loss at Indian Wells, will be American Jenson Brooksby, a 6-3 5-7 6-4 winner over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
Spanish 14th seed Carlos Alcaraz will meet Stefanos Tsitsipas after both enjoyed straight-set wins over Marin Cilic and Alex de Minaur respectively.
The 18-year-old Alcaraz beat Tsitsipas in their only previous meeting, a five-set thriller at last year’s U.S. Open.
“He is a great player,” the Greek third seed said of Alcaraz. “For me it will be a great challenge, the ones that I like.”
Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz dispatched fellow American Tommy Paul 7-6(2) 6-4 and will meet Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, a 7-6(4) 6-3 winner over Sebastian Korda.
Fritz said it is all about managing expectations.
“I didn’t really think about winning Indian Wells until I had match point in the final,” he said. “So I’m approaching this one the same way. I don’t expect to win the tournament, but I take it one match at a time, and you never know.”
Japan’s Naomi Osaka reached the WTA quarter-finals for a second consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Alison Riske, recovering after falling behind 2-0 in the second set.
After the match the unseeded Osaka said she was in a different state of mind than last year when arriving at the Miami Open after winning the Australian Open.
“It’s really funny for me because last year I made it to the (Miami) quarters too but it was after I won Australia and I wasn’t that grateful, I kind of expected to win,” said Osaka.
“But I’m in the same position this year and I am so like, this is really like one of the funnest times of my life.”
Standing between the four-times Grand Slam champion and a first Miami semi-final will be Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, who beat Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-4.