Aryna Sabalenka revealed it was after the Australian Open when she felt it was the moment for her to show Iga Swiatek that maintaining her world No 1 ranking for the entire 2023 season wouldn't be an easy thing. Sabalenka, 25, became a Grand Slam champion at this year's Australian Open and rose to No 2 in the world following her victory at Melbourne Park.
After being ranked at No 2 for seven months, Sabalenka officially became the world No 1 for the first time in her career this Monday. "After winning the Australia Open, I was thinking probably I have a chance to put Iga under pressure, show her that it's not going to be easy for her to stay on top of the game.
I was just practicing a lot, kept working hard, kept improving myself, and I was hoping that one day I'd become World No 1," Sabalenka said on the WTA Insider podcast.
Sabalenka on if she ever got distracted by thinking about the No 1 spot
At the US Open, Sabalenka secured overtaking Swiatek and her chase for the world No 1 ranking officially ended.
But before Sabalenka overtook Swiatek, the Belarusian missed out on a few opportunities to replace the Pole at the top spot earlier this year. Now reflecting on her journey to overtaking Swiatek, Sabalenka admits thinking about the world No 1 ranking distracted her at the French Open, where she blew a lead against Karolina Muchova in the semifinal.
"I think at the French Open. It went into my head and I let this thing distract me. It was a little bit painful, to be honest. I was really pissed after the match because, for me, it was kind of like going back to the old habits and not focusing on myself.
I was focusing on the rest of the things, which are, honestly, not really important. So I had some chances there. I had some chances at Wimbledon. But Wimbledon, I didn't really think about that. I also went back to the old habits where where I'm getting upset after losing my serve.
I think that was the key and the answer to why I lost that match against Ons. Definitely, she played really unbelievable tennis, but to be honest, I kind of gave her this opportunity," Sabalenka said.
• China Open: Iga Swiatek, Elena Rybakina notch impressive wins to enter pre-quarters• China Open: Aryna Sabalenka survives Katie Boulter to enter R16; Ons Jabeur ousted• Aryna Sabalenka doesn't stomach the 'Bye' rule: "It is not acceptable"• Iga Swiatek confesses what made her 'pretty proud' in opening Beijing win• Iga Swiatek rips Aryna Sabalenka's opinion: "Bye, a smart rule"• Aryna Sabalenka reveals incredibly hilarious scene she witnessed in China once