Iga Swiatek believes there was a silver lining to her recent injury woes ahead of her title defence at the French Open.
The world No.1 suffered a stern scare at the Italian Open earlier this month where she was forced to retire from her quarter-final match against Elena Rybakina due to a thigh injury. An unwelcome first for the Pole who had never retired from a WTA Tour match until then. Nine days have now passed and Swiatek is remaining upbeat about her current form.
“Luckily nothing serious happened, so I had a couple of days off,” she said during media day at the French Open. “I’m still recovering from the thigh injury, but I’ll be good for my first round. That’s the most important thing for me.”
Ironically the setback helped the three-time Grand Slam champion ‘reset’ after what has been a busy past few weeks. This year was the first time that both Rome and Madrid were expanded into two-week tournaments. Something that has been criticized by some players who argue the new format gives them less time to switch off from competition. On the other hand, others say the expanded draws provide more opportunities to those lower down in the world rankings.
From Swiatek’s perspective, the new format reduces the time to ‘properly rest’ before adding that players need to learn to adjust to the change.
“On one hand, for sure, it’s not easy getting injured and having it in the back of your mind that you have a tournament next week,” she reflected on the Schedule. “But on the other hand I’m pretty happy that I have these extra few more days off because for sure I needed time to reset.
“Since the beginning of Stuttgart I was just doing everything to play matches the best way, and that was the only thing I focused on. Having this time to reset and think about other stuff and just calm down for a couple of days was really helpful. And to also analyze what happened during the whole clay season. It’s a nice way to kind of going to the last tournament of the clay season with all the knowledge that I gained.
“I’m trying to take positives from that situation. So I feel like I have more time for sure than last year after Rome. I can more calmly prepare to Roland Garros.”
The 21-year-old faces the prospect of losing her No.1 position in Paris if she fails to reach the semi-final stage. A scenario she was unaware of until a journalist pointed it out in her press conference. She has been at the top of the WTA ranking since April last year.
Jabeur raring to go
Another player to have had her share of physical setbacks is Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who reached the final of two out of four Grand Slam events last season. For her, the problem has been a calf injury which ruled her out of the Madrid Open. Then in Rome, she only managed to win five games during her loss to Paula Badosa.
“Injury-wise I’m feeling much better, and I had a very nice week of training here at the French Open. I’m going to do my best and hopefully do better than last year,” said Jabeur who lost in the first round 12 months ago.
“I was training with a lot of players, moving normally. But you always have it in your mind what if something could happen? But I try not to focus on that. The way I move on the court I feel like is much better.”
Jabeur has already experienced success on the clay this year by winning her fourth WTA trophy in Charleston. She was also a semi-finalist in Stuttgart where she sustained her injury.
Awaiting Jabeur in the first round of the French Open this year will be Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti who has reached the final of the Rabat Open in Morocco this week. Bronzetti has only won one Grand Slam main draw match so far in her career.
“The first match will be hard because she’s actually on the rise right now. There is no easy first round. I will do my best,” said Jabeur.
‘The most important thing for me is to be in good health because it has been hard lately with all these injuries that I have sustained.’
“I will try to play with the same mindset as for Charleston because I think it was the best tournament that I played this season. I will try to keep up and enjoy playing on court.”
Iga Swiatek Criticises WTA’s Reform Of 2024 Calendar
Iga Swiatek has hit out at the WTA by claiming that only a handful of players were made aware of changes being made to the Tour calendar before they came into effect.
In recent weeks there has been an increase in frustration among players on the women’s Tour with letters being sent to the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, about their concerns. Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body. According to The Athletic, some of the concerns that have been raised relates to higher pay on the Tour, adjustments to scheduling to help support players, expanded childcare and calls for a member of the PTPA to be present on the WTA Player’s Council.
The WTA has also been in the firing line concerning their management of the Tour finals which took place in Cancun last month and was won by Switek. Some of those who took part complained about the court conditions and lack of preparation they had. The stadium court wasn’t fully constructed until the same weekend the tournament began.
Although, for the world No.1 her principle criticism concerns the 2024 calendar and the rules in place reagrding playing in mandatory events. Swiatek says some of the decisions have been made following discussions with ‘third parties’ and believes players are not being listened to.
“There is room for improvement,” she said during an interview with newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“As players, we are dissatisfied with the calendar for next year and the increase in the number of mandatory tournaments and restrictions related to withdrawing from them.’
“We want to change this. We need more balance and time to get back home. Sometimes, however, we beat our heads against the wall. Some decisions seem to be the result of promises made to third parties, federations and tournament organizers.’
“We find out about them after the fact. This causes frustration. Only a handful of players were aware of the calendar reform and the WTA cannot lead to such a situation again, since it considers itself an organization created for tennis players.”
The 22-year-old argues that these changes would give players more time to rest and see their families. Although Swiatek admits that she is in a more fortunate situation than some of her peers from a financial perspective. This season the Pole has earned $9,857,686 in prize money this year which is more than any other female player.
“I hope that we will be able to change something – for example in the rules regarding withdrawing from tournaments,” she continued.
“Fortunately, I am in a situation where I can afford for my family to go on a trip with me, but not everyone can afford it. Many players rather save all their money to pay their coaches.’
“However, there is a difference between taking your family with you and returning home, when you can wash your clothes and spend time in the place where you grew up. I often miss Warsaw.”
Swiatek has won 68 out of 79 matches played this season, claiming six titles on the Tour. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. She currently has a 245-point lead over second-place Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA standings.
‘A Long Way to Go’ – Iga Swiatek Must Improve A Key Element Of Her Game, Says Navratilova
Martina Navratilova has hailed Iga Swiatek’s winning end to her season but believes the Pole needs to continue working on a certain aspect of her game to become a better player.
Swiatek reclaimed the world No.1 ranking during the WTA Finals where she clinched the year-end title in Mexico. She closes out the year on an 11-match winning streak after also winning the China Open before playing at the WTA Finals. Overall, she has reached the semi-finals or better at 12 out of 17 Tour events played and has won 68 out of 79 matches during 2023. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two.
Now sitting at the top of the WTA rankings with a 245-point lead over second place Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has begun her off-season which is the period that players normally use to work on their game.
As to what she needs to work on, Navratilova believes a key issue for the four-time Grand Slam champion involves her volleying technique. Speaking to wtatennis.com, Navratilova says there is ‘still a long way to go’ for the former world No.1 but adds that she will become a more formidable player on the Tour if she makes improvements.
“The thing I’d target is getting to the net. I mean, she’s gotten better but there’s still a long way to go on the volley front, particularly that first volley — the transition volley, which is probably the most difficult shot in the game,” said Navratilova.
“I think that’s where she can improve the most. Iga still has a tendency to run back to the baseline when she really should be going forward. And if she gets that going? Watch out. She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.”
Continuing her analysis, the 67-year-old believes Swiatek can also increase the speed of her serves even more.
“She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.” She added.
Navratilova has also highlighted areas that she believes other players need to work on. In her view, Sabalenka’s goal should be to work more on her movement during matches. Meanwhile, for US Open champion Coco Gauff, the development of her forehand will play an important part in her game.
Swiatek ends the season with five WTA titles to her name.
Naomi Osaka Eager To Reclaim No.1 Spot, Says Coach
Naomi Osaka is targeting a return to the very top of the women’s game when she begins her comeback, according to a member of her team.
Performance coach Florian Zitzelsberger has told tennis.com that the four-time Grand Slam champion is ‘balanced and happy’ with herself after taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, a baby girl called Shai. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since the 2022 Pan Pacific Open and currently doesn’t have a ranking due to her inactivity. She has already confirmed her intention to resume her tennis career in 2024 but it is still unclear as to what her first tournament will be.
Providing a glimpse into Osaka’s current progress, Zitzelsberger says she is setting her sights on chasing after more Grand Slam titles. Zitzelsberger is the co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie and has worked with Osaka in the past. He has also collaborated with the likes of Kevin Anderson, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova.
“Where she is today is what makes working with her so inspiring,” he said. “She wants to get back to world No. 1, she wants to win Grand Slams. She gives me the impression of someone who is totally balanced and happy with herself. She’s very much grounded, mature and embracing the beauty of motherhood.”
In recent months there has been a growing trend of players returning to the sport after giving birth. Notable examples include Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki.
Zitzelsberger says his recent work with Osaka has been getting her back into shape and then working on certain areas of her game.
“To reach the highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby!” He explains.
“Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”
Part of the training process has been trying to change what type of player Osaka is to adapt to the current level of the women’s Tour. After winning the 2021 Australian Open, she only reached one more Tour final which was the following year in Miami. During this period, she struggled with some injury issues and has been open about her experiences with mental health.
“She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” Zitzelsberger commented.
“We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot.”
Osaka has won seven WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $21M in prize money.
Holger Rune Says New Coach Becker Helping Him Address Rough Patches
Carlos Alcaraz Targets Olympic Glory In 2024
Hamad Medjedovic moves to 2-0 in Red Group at the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah
Abdullah Shelbayh upsets Alex Michelsen to win his first win at the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah
Arthur Fils eases past Flavio Cobolli to move to 2-0 at the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah
Record-Breaking Novak Djokovic Hungry For More Glory
Carlos Alcaraz Searches For Improvement Ahead Of ATP Finals
WTA Yet To Decide On Host For 2024 Tour Finals After Cancun Controversy
WTA Finals Daily Preview: Sabalenka and Swiatek Fight for the No.1 Ranking
WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Djokovic Plays Rune in a Rematch of Last Year’s Final
(VIDEO): Malaga Line-Up Set As Davis Cup Most Unpredictable Tournament In History
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Steve Flink, Ubaldo Scanagatta Review The 2023 Wimbledon Men’s Final
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Steve Flink, Ubaldo Scanagatta Review The 2023 Wimbledon Women’s Final
(VIDEO): Novak Djokovic Faces Sinner Test, Women’s Semis Take Centre Stage
(VIDEO): Novak Djokovic Sets Rublev Quarter-Final Clash
Latest news2 days ago
Fabio Fognini beats Roberto Bautista Agut to win the ATP Challenger in Valencia
Hot Topics1 day ago
REPORT: Rafael Nadal To Start Comeback In Australia
Latest news3 days ago
Arthur Fils faces Luca Nardi in the opening match of the Next Gen Finals
Hot Topics2 days ago
Players Free To Play Russian Exhibition Without Facing Penalties, Says WTA
Latest news2 days ago
Grand Slam Champions Sabalenka, Rybakina To Start 2024 Campaigns In Brisbane
Hot Topics23 hours ago
Andrey Rublev: ‘Everything Needs To be Improved’
Latest news2 days ago
Arthur Fils edges Luca Nardi in the opening match of the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah
Latest news2 days ago
Flavio Cobolli beats Dominic Stricker on his debut at the Next Gen Finals