Ash Barty has hailed Iga Swiatek, her successor as the world No.1, declaring there’s no-one better to take over the top spot in women’s tennis than her young Polish friend.
Swiatek was left reflecting on her “dream come true”, becoming just the 28th woman – and first from her country – to head the WTA rankings after beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-0 in the second round of the Miami Open.
It means she’ll become the new world No. 1 when the next rankings are released on April 4 – and at 20 years 308 days, she’ll be the youngest player to make the top since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
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Swiatek was handed the ‘surreal” opportunity because of Barty’s shock retirement last week at the age of 25 which left the Pole, along with the entire tennis world, in a state of shock.
And the Australian superstar was quick to offer congratulations to Swiatek in a message after the match.
“There is no better person. The way that she’s brought this fresh, fearless energy onto the court has been incredible,” said Barty.
“I hope she can take it and still be her, do it her own way, and really chase what she’s after in her career and her dreams.”
Barty played Swiatek twice, one last year and once this season, winning on both occasions.
But the pair became good friends on the circuit, with Barty enjoying their practice sessions.
Before they played in this year’s Adelaide International, the Queenslander had noted how they shared a similar outlook on life away from tennis.
“Iga’s an incredible athlete. She’s a smart girl. She’s going to very much figure out her way and her path, what works for her,” said Barty at the time.
“There’s certainly no advice from me that needs to be given to her for her to improve.”
And Swiatek really has improved, now a more complete player even than when she won the 2020 French Open as a teenager, succeeding Barty as champion.
“I think it’s going to be a bit different and maybe the hype is going to be a bit bigger, but I’m ready for that,” Swiatek said on being quizzed about what might await her now.
She’s grateful, though, for the backing she’s received from Barty.
“She’s such a great athlete,” Swiatek said.
“I always respect Ashleigh and she gave me huge motivation to work on my tennis.”
It wasn’t just Barty who has hailed Swiatek, with Poland’s other great sporting hero, football goalscoring hero Robert Lewandowski sending her a message of congratulations.