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Swiatek feels free of No. 1 ‘baggage’ ahead of China Open

Swiatek feels free of No. 1 ‘baggage’ ahead of China Open

Poland’s Iga Swiatek towels off between points while playing against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova during their women’s singles quarter-final match on day five of the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo on September 29, 2023. — AFP pic

BEIJING, Sept 30 — World number two Iga Swiatek said today she felt relieved of the “baggage” of defending the top ranking and was looking to switch up her game ahead of the China Open in Beijing.

The Polish star spent 75 weeks at the summit of women’s tennis until a surprise early exit at the US Open this month saw her deposed by Aryna Sabalenka.

Swiatek said at a press briefing in Beijing that she had come to terms with the demotion, adding that she had “stopped thinking about rankings at all”.

“I felt like there was some baggage off my shoulders and I could focus more on... getting back to the more peaceful and normal rhythm of practising,” she said in response to a question by AFP.

“It’s a little bit easier to come back to the mindset of chasing somebody because that’s what we’ve been doing our whole lives,” the 22-year-old said.

“My main goal (in China) is to try and do some stuff differently on court in terms of technique and tactics to develop as a player and not chase rankings.”

The women’s singles tournament gets under way on Saturday, with the final on October 8.

At a press conference yesterday, Sabalenka said she was “super motivated” to see out the year at the top of the rankings table.

“It’s also about finishing the year as world number one and staying there as long as (I) can,” the Belarusian said.

Sabalenka faces a tricky first-round tie against former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States.

Swiatek takes on Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo while world number three Coco Gauff is up against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia.

The China Open is taking place for the first time since the pandemic and since the global governing body for women’s tennis ended a boycott of the country.

The Women’s Tennis Association had pulled out of China following sexual assault claims by player Peng Shuai against a top government official. — AFP