Iga Swiatek admits to having concerns about her future in the sport if the WTA increases the number of mandatory tournaments following her latest win at the Tour Finals in Cancun.
The four-time Grand Slam champion is among a series of players who have signed a letter to the WTA asking them to address a series of issues they have surrounding maternity leave, scheduling and other issues. Swiatek has also sent a separate letter to the governing body to express her concerns, according to her spokeswoman Paula Wolecka.
Frustration has been building among players on the women’s tour in recent weeks with the WTA previously holding two meetings. There has also been heavy criticism during this week’s WTA Finals from the likes of Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka concerning the court conditions and lack of practice time before the event starts. The court wasn’t fully built until the same weekend the WTA Finals began.
“I’ve been on tour for four years. But this is the first time the top players and lower ranked players are kind of united to have an impact and to do something,” Swiatek said following her 6-0, 7-5, win over Coco Gauff on Wednesday.
“We’re not happy with some things and we want to change the schedule for next year. We’re gonna have much more mandatory tournaments and it’s gonna have a huge negative impact on our health and well-being. I’m 22 and I’ve played two of the most intense seasons in my life. I already feel like it’s gonna be tough for me to continue for so many years ahead if WTA is gonna go that way to increase the number of mandatory tournaments.”
The governing body is accused of jeopardizing the health of players with their schedule with most WTA 1000 events now lasting two weeks. Swiatek believes action can be taken to address this without the WTA violating their agreements with tournaments.
“I feel like everything is just based on wanting to have more and more but not really taking care of our well-being and health,” she continued.
“There are some things that WTA could change for us, without an impact on the things they already agreed with the tournaments. Hopefully these changes are gonna come and we’re gonna find a compromise where everybody is kind of happy. ‘
“We (the WTA players) are really United and think the same way. The young ones, the older ones, we all know that this isn’t good that we’re gonna have more mandatory tournaments. So we want to really have an impact. Because when it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna stay forever and it’s gonna get worse. Hopefully, we’re gonna be able to push.”
In a bid to ease tensions, WTA CEO Steve Simon has written back to players saying that a group is currently ‘in the process of reviewing scheduling and tournament standards’ with recommendations expected to be presented this month. This group includes members of the WTA Board, Player’s Council and Tournament Council. According to the Associated Press, topics Simon mentioned in his letter included late-night finishes, inconsistency of tennis balls being used week-by-week and marketing efforts.
The WTA are yet to speak publically about player’s concerns and the letters they have received.
Jabeur’s emotional gestureEmbed from Getty Images
Elsewhere at the WTA Finals, Ons Jabeur has vowed to donate part of her prize money from the event to support Palestinians affected by the war in Gaza. Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas following an attack by the organization that resulted in the death of 1400 Israelis. Hamas’ political wing is currently in charge of running Gaza and their Health Ministry has claimed that more than 3600 children in the region have been killed during the first 25 days of the war.
Jabeur spoke about the ongoing crises following her 6-4, 6-3, win over Marketa Vondrousova. The person who beat her in the Wimbledon final earlier this year.
“I am very happy with the win but I haven’t been very happy lately. The situation in the world doesn’t make me happy,” she said.
“It’s very tough seeing children and babies dying every day. It’s heartbreaking. I have decided to donate part of my prize money to help the Palestinians. I can’t be happy with this win.
“It is not a political message, it is humanity,” she added. “I want peace in this world. That’s it.”
The world no.7 has previously been accused by the Israeli Tennis Association of supporting terrorism with the organisation filing an official complaint against her to the WTA. That action was in response to a pro-Palestine social media post from the Tunisian. Jabeur has since stated that she didn’t break any rules and is against all forms of violence.
Swiatek and Jabeur will play against each other at the WTA Finals later this week.
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.
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