World No 1 Iga Swiatek is calling for matches to be scheduled earlier after a sleep-deprived stint in Montréal and experiencing late finishes to her matches during the clay swing earlier this year.
It’s pretty hard to handle it, when you have to play in the middle of the night for a couple of weeks. And it’s not like we’re finishing and going to sleep after two hours. For me, I’m happy if I go to sleep four hours after I finish. I have almost one hour of treatment, obviously media, I have to stretch after the match, food, and then getting the adrenaline down isn’t easy as well. I wish it could change, that’s all. Iga Świątek
“For sure, weather is something we can’t really predict, but maybe we should focus more on what is healthy for players because we have to compete every week,” Swiatek told a press conference in Cincinnati on Monday.
“The tour is so intense with travel, and not actually having two days of calm, and not working, that it would be nice in the future to focus on players, especially next year when there will be more and more mandatory tournaments and longer tournaments.”
Rain delays forced Elena Rybakina to start her quarter-final against Daria Kasatkina late on Friday night in Montréal, a quarter-final that did not finish until 3am the following morning.
Scheduled for the evening session on Saturday, the weather closed in and players were hanging around until a decision was made late in the day to postpone the match until Sunday.
Had she won her semi-final, she would have had to play 2 matches in one day, as did the beaten finalist, Liudmila Samsonova, who lost in just 49 minutes to Jessica Pegula and later admitted to fatigue.
“I think it’s been a little bit unprofessional from the—I cannot say really the tournament because I think that the most important is the WTA here,” said Rybakina, who admitted she had picked up injuries during the week because she unable to recover well.
“Leadership a little bit weak for now, but hopefully something is going to change because this year it was many situations which I cannot really understand.”
In the Round of 16 against Karolina Muchova, Swiatek completed her win some 9 hours after starting the match.
The lengthy rain delays left a toll on the 22-year old Pole, which impacted her performances against both Danielle Collins, whom she beat in 3 sets, and Pegula in her semi-final, to whom she lost, also going the distance.
“Well, for sure, physically, it was a tough tournament,” she said at the time. “Especially that match against Karolina being delayed a couple of times, you know.
“I didn’t really have time during the tournament to actually rest for a while, and do nothing. So it wasn’t easy, but it didn’t change the fact that I just fought until the end.
“And this match today [against Pegula], for sure, physically, was tough, like having only 16 hours to recover.
“For sure, I’m not an easy sleeper, so it’s hard to sleep after such a match as yesterday, with a lot of adrenaline, you know. You, kind of, have to deal with that. It’s the life of a tennis player. So I did what I could.”
In Cincinnati, Swiatek echoed Rybakina’s calls for change, having first raised the issue during the clay-court tournaments in Madrid and Rome, both of which became two-week tournaments in 2023.
“During the clay season, in Rome and Madrid, I played four matches that finished close to or after midnight,” she said. “I understand that we have to adjust to broadcasters and everything, but I also asked the WTA for some data to see if people are watching matches that start past 10pm. I didn’t get anything, but it would be easier to actually understand that it makes sense to play that late.”
A finalist in Madrid, Swiatek travelled to Rome alongside champion Aryna Sabalenka, who later admitted fatigue had factored into her opening-round exit against Sofia Kenin at the Foro Italico.
“Aryna played the first day and she, honestly, said she was exhausted, and couldn’t recover from Madrid, and she lost,” Swiatek said. “I requested to play second day but, because of my request, I was always scheduled for the second match of the night session.
“It’s pretty hard to handle it, when you have to play in the middle of the night for a couple of weeks.
“And it’s not like we’re finishing and going to sleep after two hours,” she continued. “For me, I’m happy if I go to sleep four hours after I finish.
“I have almost one hour of treatment, obviously media, I have to stretch after the match, food, and then getting the adrenaline down isn’t easy as well. I wish it could change, that’s all.”
Pressed for possible solutions, Swiatek cited Roland Garros’ decision to move the start time of its featured night match to an hour earlier, from 9pm to 8pm.
“What I hear, just from the people around me, they’re always watching the first match of a night session and I don’t actually know if they’re staying to watch the second one,” she said, later asking the media: “Do you guys watch these matches? I mean, you have to. That’s a stupid question. But do you like watching these matches? That answers it.”
This is not be the first time Swiatek has brought about change on the tour since securing the No 1 ranking for an uninterrupted run of 72 weeks.
Last summer, she successfully sparked the debate over the use of different tennis balls by the men and women at the US Open, asking the WTA to play the same extra-duty ball as the ATP.
“From what Wilson is pointing out on the can, [the extra-duty balls] are made for hard courts, so it makes more sense,” she said. “As you could see from Montréal, my result was better than Toronto last year.”
Following her run to the semi-finals, Swiatek extended her stay at the top of the WTA Rankings for another week, and she now sits alone in 10th place on the all-time list for most weeks at No 1, with 72 weeks at the top helping the Pole move ahead of Caroline Wozniacki, but she has a way to go to catch up No 9, Lindsay Davenport, who is on 98 weeks.
Steffi Graf sits at No 1 with 377 weeks, and she is followed by Martina Navratilova (332), Serena Williams (319), Chris Evert (260), Martina Hingis (209), Monica Seles (178), Ashleigh Barty (121) and Justine Henin (117).
Meanwhile, the current Top 10 remains unchanged this week, following the Canadian Open, with Swiatek followed by Sabalenka, Pegula, Rybakina, Jabeur, Gauff, Sakkari, Kvitova and Vondrousova.
Swiatek has a 744-point lead over Sabalenka, but Pegula was the big mover as she won the WTA 1000 event in Montréal and added a healthy 550 points to her tally, but the gap to Sabalenka is still quite big as the Belarusian is more than 2,700 points ahead of her.
Samsonova received some consolation following the disappointing final on Sunday, as her run was still good enough to move the Russian up to No 12 in the rankings, a spot she held in February this year.
Meanwhile, Collins, the 2022 Australian Open runner-up, is back up to No 34 following her run to the 4th- round, and British No 1 Katie Boulter is up 12 places to a career-high No 60 after reaching the 2nd-round in Montréal.
Swiatek will play her first match in Cincinnati against either Collins or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia.