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"I felt the pressure": Swiatek takes learnings from Rybakina loss

  • Dan Imhoff

Taking stock of one the most dominant seasons in years provided Iga Swiatek with precious time for contemplation ahead of her fifth Australian Open campaign this January. 

The 2022 off-season brought an opportunity to look back on a remarkable year in which she added two more major titles and ended with a 67-9 record.

Not since Serena Williams in 2013 had a woman won as many matches in a year, placing the 21-year-old in rarefied company. Naturally, goals were re-evaluated and improvements to be made drawn up in the off-season.

Sunday was Swiatek's third fourth-round loss in Melbourne in the past four years (Getty Images)

A maiden Melbourne Park trophy was rightfully on that list, but in her fourth Grand Slam event as the top seed, that bid began to take on a more emotionally taxing burden.

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"For sure, (the) past two weeks have been pretty hard for me," Swiatek said following her 6-4 6-4 fourth-round defeat to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Sunday.

"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.

"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."

While a boilover on paper, a third-round exit at Wimbledon last year to the experienced Alize Cornet was not entirely unexpected. Swiatek was coming off her second Roland Garros triumph and riding a staggering 37-match winning streak at the time.

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The upside was the momentous pressure release after that unbeaten run ended.

While the wash-up of that defeat lingered well into the US hard-court swing, it in turn set up Swiatek for a successful US Open title tilt.

The top seed did not expect last year's Wimbledon setback to necessarily set a precedent for how she would rebound after Sunday's defeat.

"I don't see that many similarities, honestly," Swiatek said. 

"I feel like it's pretty easy. I just wasted too much energy before the tournament and during the first days of the tournament to worry … It's just a different period of time for me.

Swiatek leaves Melbourne with lessons learned (Getty Images)

"Before US Open I was actually able to kind of let it go because I played pretty bad in Toronto and Cincinnati, and that helped me kind of to reset and just start the US Open without actually expecting much from myself.

"Here was different, so I'm not connecting, like, the US Open with the streak at all. I'm not comparing this situation to my Wimbledon loss."