Iga Swiatek will become world number one on Monday no matter what happens against Naomi Osaka, although the rivalry between the two could become a historic challenge in women’s tennis.
Swiatek moves to the top of the rankings only thanks to Ashleigh Barty’s retirement, which shocked the tennis world last week, but that doesn’t mean she’s lost the crown. The Pole was on top of his game this spring, winning titles in Qatar and Indian Wells before reaching the final on Saturday in Miami. In total, he made 16 straight matches, the last eight of which came in straight sets.
We also welcome Osaka’s return to the elite level. She walked off the field in Indian Wells crying after being abused by the fans in a crushing loss to Veronika Kudremetova and on Thursday cried again silently despite tears of joy and comfort rather than sadness and anger. Her three-set victory over Belinda Bencic was cathartic and battle-hardened, and it was her biggest win in an Australian Open title in 15 months.
Tears are also a regular feature of Swiatek’s public character. In stark contrast to Barty’s private and reserved, the 20-year-old says she never goes “a week without crying for a week, so I cry when I lose, I cry when I win,” an endearing bluntness to her. For the tennis community, including the city of Osaka itself.
Swiatek vs Osaka
- History: Saturday 2 April
- hour: 6 pm GMT
- TV / Live Streaming– Amazon Prime Video via the Prime Video website or app on mobile, tablet or smart TV (with Prime subscription, £7.99 per month)
- me Expect: Osaka has been playing well, but Swatek has looked invincible for weeks, with his defense and field coverage improving significantly. Swiatek in straight sets.
Nowhere is Swiatek more famous than Poland. She was born in the suburbs of Warsaw, to her parents Dorota, an orthodontist, and Tomasz, a former world champion in rowing and an Olympic athlete. Her father encouraged her to play sports and she was playing tennis when she saw her older sister Agata playing and stayed.
Now, there are a few big names in Poland.
“When it comes to athletes, it is second only to Robert Lewandowski,” says Michal Pochubin, correspondent for Polish national radio TVP. me.
Swiatek’s rise to number one was a catalyst for a huge surge in popularity in his homeland, where his surprise victory at the 2020 French Open had little effect at first.
“Of course it was a historic achievement, but outside the tennis community there hasn’t been much hype,” adds Pochopien.
“It has been discussed for several days, but I have not noticed an excessive increase in interest in tennis in Poland. I have the impression that there is a lot of interest in it now, when it has been dominant for several weeks.
It’s not just empty talk either. Over the Easter weekend, Poland will host Romania in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers and demand has increased thanks to Swiatek’s new status as well as his unbeaten streak in 16 games on the hard courts.
“Often, celebrities have fans and enemies, but not in the case of Swiatek,” Pochopien adds.
“He doesn’t even have opponents. It’s impossible not to like her for her behavior on the court or for her moves on social networks.
The test now will be whether his superstars can shine more worldwide. When she plays Osaka on Saturday, Swiatek will be the bookie’s favorite to win, but plenty of people on the planet can pick her opponent from the lineup. She has barely over 500,000 followers on Instagram, compared to Osaka’s 2.8 followers and Emma Raducanu’s 2.1. Swiatek has to catch up.
Not outside. Swiatek has already shown that she can excel on all surfaces – she was the 2018 Wimbledon junior champion and reached the fourth round there last year – and she is a celebrity in the locker room. If she beats Osaka on Saturday, she would wake up on Monday morning with number one in the world and a third consecutive title to her name, not to mention the £2.67 million in prize money in 2022 alone.
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