World No 1 Iga Swiatek suffered a surprisingly early exit from the Australian Open and now tennis legend John McEnroe has thrown up a possible reason for her demise.
Swiatek admitted the pressure of the world number one tag got to her after crashing out of the Australian Open in the fourth round to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Rybakina dropped only six points on her first serve during the match and recovered from 3-0 down against a frustrated Swiatek.
The result, coupled with defeats for Ons Jabeur, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, means for the first time in the open era, the top two seeds in both the men’s and women’s draws lost before the quarter-finals.
While it is a big shock, Swiatek is not as dominant on hard courts as she is on clay and, although she has talked here of not expecting herself to win every match, it is clear the Pole finds it difficult to temper those expectations.
“For sure the past two weeks have been pretty hard for me,” said Swiatek, who won the French and US Opens last year.
“So I felt today that I don’t have that much to take from myself to fight even more. I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard. So I’m going to try to chill out a little bit more.
“I felt the pressure, and I felt that I don’t want to lose instead of I want to win. So that’s, I think, a base of what I should focus on in the next couple of weeks.
“I think it’s going to be motivating for me, and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to play the next tournaments with something to focus on, something to work on, and I think I’m going to go forward. So I think it’s OK.”
Now McEnroe has given his verdict on Swiatek’s hopes for the rest of 2023, as he suggested she needs to rediscover a stable mindset to get back to winning ways.
“I was surprised she lost,” said McEnroe, speaking ahead of the final few days of the Australian Open, which is live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport.
“It did seem like she wasn’t settled as emotionally and has spoken about the pressure of being No 1.
“I covered Wimbledon last year and Rybakina is the kind of player who can take the racket out of your hand and she is playing at the level she was when she won Wimbledon.
“I don’t think the other players have worked out how to beat her. She covers a tennis court better than anyone I’ve seen.
“To me, with Swiatek, it is more mental than physical at this point. It’s about what is going on in her head. She seems unsure for some reason.
“Any time you win a couple of majors and become No 1 unexpectedly because a player retires, that is a massive change.
“I hope she can take a step back, appreciate what she has done and want to get back on the court and compete again.”
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