Iga Swiatek started her week by deciding that she wanted to set her sights on becoming the No. 1 player in the world, without knowing how long that quest would take. A few days and one surprising retirement later, mission accomplished.
Women’s tennis has a new name atop its rankings, a 20-year-old who – now that Ashleigh Barty has retired and asked to vacate her No. 1 spot on the world list – becomes the first Polish player to hold that distinction. Swiatek’s ascension was clinched Friday night with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in the second round of the Miami Open.
When the tournament ends and the rankings are updated April 4, Barty will be removed and Swiatek officially will move into the top spot no matter what happens the rest of the way in Miami.
“I’m really satisfied and really proud of myself,” Swiatek said.
Swiatek becomes the 28th different woman to hold the No. 1 ranking since the computerized system debuted in November 1975. Her rise has been steady and constant; she ended 2016 ranked No. 903, cracked the top 500 for the first time in 2018, ended 2020 ranked No. 17, then was No. 9 when last year ended. Barty revealed her retirement decision on Wednesday, and as part of that said she wanted to be removed from the rankings. She’s held the top spot since November 2019 and would have kept the top spot after this tournament ended even if Swiatek won the title.
But her decision to retire and step out of the rankings opened the door for either Swiatek or Paula Badosa, the No. 5 seed in Miami and the only other person who had a mathematical chance of getting the top spot. Badosa won her second-rounder in Miami on Friday, topping Marie Bouzkova 7-5, 7-5 in a match that ended shortly before Swiatek took the court.
Badosa was ranked No. 71 when she played in Miami last year.
“Things have changed a lot, very fast,” Badosa said. “I’m really proud of myself. I think I’ve had an amazing year.”
Swiatek and Badosa bucked a wild trend in Miami – where seeded women’s players have had serious struggles. There were 32 seeds entering the tournament, and more than half of them are gone before the third round even gets started.
Coco Gauff is one of the few exceptions. The 14th-seeded American, whose home is about a 45-minute drive north from where she’s playing this event, got past Wang Qiang of China 7-5, 6-4 on Friday – avenging a first-round loss to her in the Australian Open earlier this year.
“I feel like playing at a home crowd you either can get nervous playing in front of your family, friends, or embrace it,” Gauff said. “And today I think I embraced it.” No. 16 Jessica Pegula felt right at home too, even though the tournament is held on the grounds where the NFL’s Miami Dolphins practice and play – and her parents, Terry and Kim Pegula, just happen to own the Dolphins’ AFC East rival Buffalo Bills. Pegula had little trouble beating 2018 Miami Open winner Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4.ap