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Swiatek becomes new WTA World number one

MIAMI (AFP) – Poland’s Iga Swiatek clinched becoming the new world number one in women’s tennis yesterday by defeating Swiss player Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-0 at the WTA Miami Open.

Swiatek will move into the top spot vacated by Australian Ashleigh Barty after the three-time Grand Slam champion announced her retirement this week.

“Pretty surreal,” Swiatek said. “On one hand, these are the most special moments that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life, but on the other hand, that match was just another match.”

The 20-year-old Warsaw-born star had to win her second-round match at the South Florida hardcourt tournament to ensure she would replace Barty in the next rankings next month.

After the victory, there was a brief on-court ceremony where Swiatek was cheered and honoured by tournament director James Blake and former WTA number one Lindsay Davenport.

“I never really imagined that moment because, truth to be told, I was working day-by-day and playing tennis well, but I never had the strong belief that it can actually happen,” Swiatek said. “So it’s even more surreal for me.”

Iga Swiatek returns a shot to Viktorija Golubic. PHOTO: AFP

She didn’t feel slighted by the manner of it all, coming suddenly after Barty’s shock farewell. “I loved every moment of it,” Swiatek said.

“It doesn’t matter for me if there were fireworks. The crowd was really supportive. They were really excited. I’m just soaking everything in because I didn’t have any expectations.”

Swiatek will be the first Polish woman to reach the rankings summit, eclipsing the old mark for players from her homeland she shared with former world number two Agnieszka Radwanska.

Poland’s first Grand Slam singles title was won by Swiatek at the 2020 French Open.

Swiatek has enjoyed a blistering start to the season, winning WTA titles at Doha and Indian Wells, and is now on a career-best 12-match win streak.

She’s also the first player since Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki in 2009 to win five or more titles before turning 21.

Swiatek becomes the 28th woman to reach the WTA pinnacle and the youngest since Wozniacki in 2010, but she doesn’t expect much to change for her with the climb to the top.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit different. Maybe the hype is going to be a little bit bigger, but I’m ready for it. And honestly, it’s part of the job,” Swiatek said.