WTA's Iga Swiatek backs performance byes for rest, prep time

Iga Swiatek has given her backing to the reintroduction of performance byes during the WTA's Asian swing of events, saying they allowed players who reach the semifinals of a tournament to rest and prepare for the next one.

Under the rule, Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Veronika Kudermetova received byes into the second round of the China Open after reaching the Tokyo semifinals last week.

Byes are usually reserved for top seeds at events but the performance rule meant World No. 2 Swiatek, who lost in the Tokyo quarters, went into the first round in China.

World No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 3 Coco Gauff also missed out on byes, as they had not played since the US Open.

"I didn't really dig into this rule so much because these are the first tournaments that I'm playing where it's possible to get this kind of thing. But it's been on tour for a long time," Swiatek said.

"I think it's smart because usually when I had tournaments that I played till the end, I know how it is to rush to another tournament and not have time to rest and prepare. So I think that rule is fine. I think that rule makes sense."

Sabalenka was less than pleased with the rule, which has been implemented at various times since 2009, saying it was not acceptable for players to receive them for success in lower-tier tournaments instead of those who had earned ranking points in top events.

The Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo was a WTA 500 event, while the China Open is a WTA 1000 tournament.

"I think you have to earn those byes," she said Sunday.

The WTA said it would continue to implement performance byes on a trial basis at its events during the rest of the season and throughout 2024, with adjustments made when required.

"We have introduced this trial for a number of reasons, including allowing for a healthier transition to tournaments when players are playing back-to-back events," the WTA told Reuters via email, adding the move would reduce withdrawals.

"We have consulted with the players and the feedback has been that they feel this approach is very fair."

Elena Rybakina pulled out of the Pan Pacific Open last week citing fitness issues, days after slamming the WTA for the introduction of performance byes at the tournament.

"Performance bye. Thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always @wta," she wrote on Instagram.

Byes for that tournament were given to Sakkari, who won the Guadalajara title, and Caroline Garcia who made the semifinals in Mexico. Both players are ranked lower than Rybakina.