(Reuters) - Iga Swiatek said losing the world number one ranking felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders and the 22-year-old plans to focus on improving her game and not merely chasing points during the home stretch of the season.
Swiatek inherited top spot following Ash Barty's retirement in April 2022 and embarked on a superb run of form in the months that followed to claim three more Grand Slam titles after her breakthrough French Open success in 2020.
The Polish player's consistency meant she spent 75 weeks at the peak, but a fourth round defeat at the U.S. Open last month meant Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka finally leapfrogged her.
"I think it's a bit easier to come back to the mindset of chasing somebody because that's what we've been doing our whole lives," world number two Swiatek told reporters in Beijing, where she plays Sara Sorribes Tormo on Monday.
"There's only one person who's at number one. I think this was harder to get used to last season. But honestly, it doesn't really matter for me because after the U.S. Open, I knew I was going to drop to second position.
"I stopped thinking about rankings because I felt like there's some baggage off my shoulders. I could focus more on just working and getting back to the more peaceful and normal rhythm of practising."
Swiatek is in no rush to reclaim the top ranking and said she wanted to develop as a player in the coming months.
"It's different because you're just focusing on the future, not on defending something," Swiatek said. "I'm using that. But overall I'm also worried that it's the last tournaments of the season, so I'm not going to be 100% fresh.
"My main goal is to do some stuff differently on court in terms of the technique and tactics, to develop as a player, not really chase points or rankings."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)