MADRID, Spain -- World No.1 Iga Swiatek will not be playing this week's Mutua Madrid Open, but the 20-year-old was the talk of the town at the tournament's media day on Wednesday. Coming off her 23rd consecutive victory to capture her fourth straight title at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Swiatek withdrew from Madrid citing a shoulder injury and need for a well-deserved rest.
Having swept the tour's first three WTA 1000 titles in Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami before winning her first clay title of the season in Stuttgart, Swiatek's historic run has left her peers in a state of awe.
"She inspires us, to be honest," World No.10 Ons Jabeur told reporters at Media Day in Madrid. "We want it or not, she's an inspiration to a lot of players, and me included.
"I hope I can achieve that level because I don't know what she's doing right now, but what she's doing is right. To be able not to lose a match is the goal for every player and I hope she can continue that way.
"But not against me," the Tunisian added with a laugh.
Naomi Osaka got a front-row seat to the Swiatek show at the Miami Open last month, as the Pole defeated the former No.1 6-4, 6-0 in the final. With her win on Sunday over No.4 Aryna Sabalenka in the Stuttgart final, Swiatek became the first player to win 23 matches in a row since Osaka during the 2020 to 2021 seasons.
"I think it’s really awesome what she’s doing," Osaka said. "I wish I would be able to win four tournaments in a row.
"I think to me she just looks really concentrated, which is really cool at such a young age. I think she has a goal, maybe we all don’t know about that goal, but it really looks like she has a purpose. It’s really cool to see her playing that well and I really want to play her on clay just to see what happens."
Swiatek has certainly noticed the change in tenor from her peers but says she's been moved by the positive messages she's received as she's marched through the draws.
"I feel like they're kind of watching me a little bit more," Swiatek told reporters after withdrawing from Madrid. "I don't know if that's a positive thing or not, but there are many players who congratulated me and who I could see that they feel sympathy. It was pretty nice talking to some of them.
"It surprised me because I didn't know if people are going to be, I don't know, jealous or if they're going to imagine they're being in my position. But honestly, I really appreciate how they are all treating me, so it's pretty nice."
No.5 Maria Sakkari has seen how Swiatek's game has evolved over the last two seasons. Sakkari went 3-0 against Swiatek last season, but has lost their two meetings during the streak, including the Indian Wells final.
But there are no hard feelings. The Greek star relishes their budding rivalry.
"I've been telling you guys that she has been doing the right things," Sakkari said. "You don't win four tournaments in a row if you don't deserve it. It's exciting. She's obviously feeling confident.
"But I see myself up there and I see that I can be one of the players that can make her feel that it's tough when we play each other. She has actually said it a lot of times, how we have a great rivalry. It's great for our sport because she's a young player, she has a different personality, in a good way, of course. It's exciting for our game now that Ash is not here."
Jabeur echoed Sakkari's sentiments. From their perspective, Swiatek has seamlessly slipped into Ashleigh Barty's shoes.
"It didn't happen just over a day," Jabeur said. "Even though Barty was No.1 and she took off her name, it was completely deserved for Iga to be there and she showed it, winning all the tournaments.
"I hope she feels well. I know playing a lot of matches is not easy. We saw how Barty she played a lot of matches last year and how she got injured at the French Open. So it's a very smart move for her maybe to take care of her body."
New World No.2 Paula Badosa has practiced with Swiatek since their days grinding it out on the ITF Circuit. The two remain frequent practice partners before big tournaments and the Spaniard continues to marvel at Swiatek's unique skill set.
"Mentally she's different," Badosa said. "The way she plays, she has special hands. She has magic. From the middle, she opens the court very easily. She moves amazing.
"She has everything to be World No.1. She totally deserves it. And I'm even more happy, because she's a humble person and she's very normal."
Swiatek's down-to-earth temperament was a common refrain amongst the player set.
"Obviously, you can tell she's a very, very nice girl," Sakkari said. "She's a very good person. You can tell from her eyes and from her and from her aura and everything.
"She has something, not a superpower, but something special. She's like Eleven in Stranger Things. She has something."
Said Jabeur: "Iga is always nice. She didn't change. I like her, I like her team a lot.
"And she's a very humble person. And honestly, I respect humble people a lot because I hate when people change because of a ranking, you know?"