London | Swiatek extends her top-rank lead

Iga Swiatek extended the distance between her spot as the World No 1 and the rest of the pack after her thrilling win in Madrid on Saturday, and is now 3,412 points ahead of her nearest rival, Aryna Sabalenka.

I'm no longer just a tennis player. My role is not as easy as I imagined, dreaming of a career as a 12-year-old. Iga Świątek

For the past 66 weeks, dating back to the 2023 Australian Open, Swiatek and Sabalenka have maintained a stranglehold at the top of the rankings, but that could change for the Belarusian in Rome, as she now is only 185 points ahead of Coco Gauff in the second spot.

Swiatek is superstar, particularly in her homeland, Poland, where the 22-year old graces the latest cover of Elle magazine this week, showing off her rarely seen glamorous side in an edition fittingly dubbed the ‘sport and chic issue’.

Swiatek last appeared on the cover of Elle in her home country 2 years ago, in January 2022, shortly before she rose to the World No1 ranking on the heels of Ash Barty’s retirement from tennis.

For that shoot, she wore a ruffled two-piece black outfit, a wide-brimmed hat, with a pop of colour in the form of orange flip-flops on her feet.

In this year’s June issue, which hit newsstands on Tuesday, sees a more mature Swiatek in her choice of style and the accompanying interview.

“Two years ago, I wanted to prove that I was in a good place, I didn’t feel like a fully experienced competitor. I was learning to face the first wave of success and expectations associated with it,” the 4-time Grand Slam champion tells editor-in-chief Marta Tabiś-Szymanek on the magazine’s Instagram.

“I’m no longer just a tennis player. My role is not as easy as I imagined, dreaming of a career as a 12-year-old.”

Iga Swiatek has matured since she first appeared on the cover of Elle magazine

Instagram/Elle Magazine

Styled by Karolina Limbach and photographed by Gosia Turczyńska, Swiatek models for a pair of covers.

In the first, she wears a classy black ballgown, with a high neck and one long sleeve, a cutout at the waist, and her hair pulled back.

In the second cover, she poses with one arm above her head, in a striking red dress.

Her light makeup is by Lancôme, in one of her first appearances since becoming the first athlete to become a worldwide ambassadorship with the beauty brand last month.

Swiatek leads the field at this week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, which she has won twice, and is the defending champion at the French Open, which begins on 26 May.

Aryna Sabalenka is now a battle with Coco Gauff to retain her World No 2 spot in Rome

© Elsa/Getty Images

Meanwhile, this week’s rankings see Stuttgart finalist Marta Kostyuk, who fell to Mayar Sherif in her Madrid opener, makes her Top 20 debut this week, while Dubai champion Jasmine Paolini moves up one place to a new career high of No 12 thanks to her 4th-round run in Madrid.

Four promising teenagers have been boosted after posting standout results in Madrid.

Sara Bejlek had never won a tour-level match before, but, after qualifying, the Czech 18-year-old reached the 4th-round via the first two Top 50 wins of her career, over Anna Blinkova and Anna Kalinskaya, and rises 22 spots to a new career high of No 114.

Wild-card Robin Montgomery, the 2021 US Open junior champion, reached the 3rd-round, where the 19-year-old American pushed Sabalenka to 3 sets. It was the first time Montgomery had won back-to-back matches in a WTA main draw, and she climbs 24 places to No 159.

Two other 18-year-old wild-cards also won their first WTA 1000 match in Madrid. Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, the 2020 Australian Open junior champion, notched her first Top 60 win over Zhu Lin, and 2022 US Open girls’ titlist Alexandra Eala took out Lesia Tsurenko for her first Top 50 win. Eala moves up eight places to a new career high of No.162, while Jimenez Kasintseva is up 25 spots to No.310.

Madison Keys rises to No 16 in the world after her run to the Last 8 in Madrid last week

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Other notable rankings movements include Marketa Vondrousova, who rises to No 6 and Zheng Qinwen to No 7, while Maria Sakkari dropped from 6 to No 8.

Madison Keys moves up 4 spots to No 16 after her semi-final run in Madrid, giving her a shot at making the US Olympic team, and Yulia Putintseva rises to 41 after making back-to-back WTA 1000 quarter-finals in Miami and Madrid.

Sara Sorribes Tormo scored back-to-back victories over Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka on home soil to reach the Madrid 4th round, which sees her leap 8 places to No 47).

Maria Lourdes Carle won back-to-back tour-level matches for the first time, defeating Emma Raducanu and Veronika Kudermetova to make the Madrid 3rd-round as a qualifier and is rewarded with a rise to 83.

Naomi Osaka, a former World No 1 won her first match on clay in 2 years to reach the 2nd-round of Madrid, where she fell to Liudmila Samsonova in a tight 3-setter, and rise 24 spots, from 197 to 173.



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