NEW DELHI: Former Swedish world no. 1 tennis player Mats Wilander believes that losing the No.1 ranking could be the "best thing that can happen" to four-time major winner Iga Swiatek's game.
Swiatek's 75-week run as world No. 1 will come to an end after the US Open as Aryna Sabalenka will take over at the top of the WTA rankings for the first time.
Reflecting on what losing the No.1 ranking means for the Pole, Wilander thinks that Swiatek's dethroning is precisely the motivation the 22-year-old, who already boasts four Grand Slam titles, requires to enhance her game.
"I think this is most probably the best thing that can happen for her tennis," Wilander told Eurosport. "There’s a reason for her to start working on her game again and figuring out what happens to her when she plays against big hitters now she doesn’t have to [worry about being world No. 1."
"But she’s right in the statement about defending. We turn into a bit of a negative, we talk about defending, defending points, so I think it’s time for her to step aside and work on her game a bit," he said.
Alongside Wilander, American legend John McEnroe also compared the pressure and expectation on Swiatek to when he was thrust into the spotlight after Bjorn Borg unexpectedly retired.
McEnroe and Borg shared an intense rivalry, meeting in four Grand Slam finals in 1980 and 1981, while also competing fiercely for the world No.1 ranking. However, this rivalry came to an unexpected conclusion when Borg retired at the young age of 26.
Swiatek was in a similar position last year when she became world No.1 following Ashleigh Barty’s surprise retirement, also aged 26.
"This happened to me when Bjorn Borg stopped out of nowhere, everyone freaked out. It was like ‘What?!’ and they put more of their attention on me. I was like ‘What, I’m still the same guy, and it’s not that much different’. And I felt a complete difference. And I am sure she has as well when she inherited the No.1 ranking," McEnroe said.
"She has done a fantastic job for the most part. Of course, there is more pressure and expectations. The No.1 player is looked at more carefully, you have to accept and expect that. She won the US Open last year, she’s won three French Opens, she’s carried herself proudly, and she has done a fantastic job all in all. But you are the hunted, people are coming after you," he added.