WTA

Lewandowski, Vonn and Shiffrin salute new WTA number one Iga Swiatek

By Sports Desk March 26, 2022

Robert Lewandowski joined skiing greats Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin in saluting Iga Swiatek for earning the number one ranking in women's tennis for the first time.

At the age of 20, Swiatek guaranteed she will top the WTA list after the Miami Open by beating Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-0 in her opening match at the event.

Swiatek will replace Ash Barty, whose shock retirement will see the Australian drop off the ranking ladder entirely when it is next published on April 4.

Since a shock French Open victory in October 2020, when the unseeded Swiatek stormed through the draw without dropping a set, the Polish youngster has continued to make a major impact.

She reached at least the fourth round of all the grand slams last year and was a semi-finalist at the 2022 Australian Open, before victory at WTA 1000 events in Doha and Indian Wells propelled her to number two in the rankings.

Now she will climb a step higher, and that news has proven popular with Swiatek's supporters, who include a number of illustrious names.

Fellow Polish sporting star Lewandowski, who is rewriting goalscoring records in Germany with Bayern Munich, sent his compatriot a message on Instagram that read simply: "Congratulations Iga. Well done."

Swiatek is a huge admirer of Americans Vonn and Shiffrin, who have both landed World Championship and Olympic gold medals on the slopes, and the respect is mutual.

Vonn told Swiatek her achievement was "So deserved!!", and Shiffrin posted: "Congrats Iga!!"

Former WTA number one Kim Clijsters, who was also 20 when she first hit the top spot in 2003, felt it was a natural next step for Swiatek to move up a rung and become the 28th top-ranked player in the tour's history. Swiatek will also be the first Pole to sit at the summit.

Clijsters said: "To see Iga grow as a tennis player, it has been so beautiful for me. There's a certain type of focus that is on tennis, and tennis only. There's a drive there that I admire very much – a drive that I recognise."

Belgian Clijsters, quoted on the WTA website, added: "She's had great results in the past, but she still wants to improve. We've seen others that kind of take a step back and say, 'Oh, I've won a slam now, I've made it. There's sponsors coming in and I get treated like a princess wherever I go'.

"Just because you’re the number one player and have won slams, doesn't mean you should treat other people differently. I feel like Ash Barty did that amazingly, and I think Iga has that focus, too."

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    France - Antoine Griezmann

    Griezmann continues to deliver for France time and time again. No player has created more chances than the 11 he has produced for Les Blues in this tournament.

    The Atletico Madrid forward is the only player to create at least 10 chances in both this World Cup and Russia 2018 for France. He has already surpassed his total of 10 four years ago.

    Poland - Wojciech Szczesny

    Goalkeeper Szczesny has played a key role for Poland in Qatar, achieving a save percentage of 90. He had kept out each of his first 16 shots on target faced in the tournament prior to Alexis Mac Allister's goal for Argentina.

    Szczesny saved a Lionel Messi penalty in midweek, ensuring he has stopped a spot-kick in each of his past two World Cup games. He could be in for a busy game, given France's quality going forward.

    PREDICTION

    While there have been shock results aplenty in this tournament, France will not be expected to slip up when they attempt to seal a place in the last eight.

    Stats Perform's AI model gives the defending champions a 74.8 per cent chance of going through, with Poland at only 8.1 per cent to produce an upset.

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