Women's' World No.1 Iga Swiatek has been forced to apologise over a questionable act that has sparked backlash across the tennis world.
Swiatek collected a staggering eighth title of the year after a 6-3 3-6 6-0 win over Croatia's Donna Vekic in the San Diego Open final.
However, the victory has been overshadowed by an unsavoury incident that has seen fans accuse the Polish star of "cheating" and being "unsportsmanlike".
The controversial moment came at break point in the sixth game of the second set when Swiatek waived her arms in the air at the net in an apparent attempt to distract her opponent.
Vekic went on to win the rally after smashing a cross-court backhand winner to open up a 4-2 lead, but the incident did not go unnoticed by viewers.
Some fans claimed the World No.1 had form when it came to using the controversial tactic against her opponents, as the World No.1 faced the wrath of the tennis world on social media.
“Listen I like Iga, but waving your arms to distract your opponents while they’re hitting is sh*tty and she keeps doing it,” tennis journalist Caitlin Thompson wrote.
Other fans went as far as describing Swiatek's actions as "cheating".
Swiatek is the best in the world; there is no doubt. And oddly enough, one of the biggest cheats on tour. Disgusting.
— dk (@krk73) October 17, 2022
She needs to stop doing this. Totally unnecessary….. pic.twitter.com/LmmX7kLTgn
— Vansh (@vanshv2k) October 17, 2022
You’re a cheat Iga! Not cool how you try and distract your opponent at net by waving your arms in the air like you did in the final against Vekic. It’s unsportsmanlike conduct and you should be fined every time you do it! I’ve seen you do it twice now and it’s not fair play!
— Mandala (@roddersmw) October 17, 2022
— bad value winners (@badwinners) October 17, 2022
I'm a Swiatek fan, but throwing your arms up like that to distract your opponent is cheating. https://t.co/EJPWm201dp
— JeanClaudePanDemic (@TheLennoXFiles) October 17, 2022
Never been the biggest fan of Swiatek but respected her game......until I saw this!!
Very very poor sportsmanship & utter gamesmanship!! https://t.co/2KxjT6T4xJ
— Reggie🐺🐊 (@Reggie61823972) October 17, 2022
To her credit, Swiatek addressed the incident on social media after her win, offering an apology to Vekic for the contentious tactic.
“This is the best prize/trophy ever!” Swiatek posted on social media alongside a photo of herself with a surfboard.
“Thank you San Diego for an amazing (cloudy) week and this unique vibe. I love it here. And congrats @DonnaVekic for your amazing run! And sorry for waving my hands at the net.”
Iga Swiatek claims 8th title of incredible year
Swiatek pumped her fist and blew a kiss to the crowd after Vekic double faulted on match point to cap a third set where the top seed raised her level and tournament qualifier Vekic appeared to finally run out of gas.
"I wanted to go all in," Swiatek said of her approach going into the deciding set of the new WTA 500 event, held in one of California's surfing hotspots.
"Knowing how well she can serve, I just wanted to be more loosened up on my return games - not think too much, use my intuition and fight for every ball."
Swiatek got the first break of serve of the match in the opening set when Vekic, who had to complete her rain-interrupted semi-final earlier on Sunday, sent a backhand long for 4-2.
Another backhand error handed Swiatek the first set, prompting Vekic to throw her racket to the floor in frustration.
The Croatian player refused to go down without a fight, though, and levelled the match on the strength of her powerful serve and groundstrokes.
In the decider, Swiatek fired a crosscourt winner to break for a 2-0 lead that shifted momentum firmly in her favour.
Swiatek, who rose to World No.1 in April following the retirement of Australia's Ash Barty, is now 64-8 for the season.
The 21-year-old won the US Open and French Open this year and will be the hot favourite to claim the WTA Finals, when the season-ending event kicks off in Fort Worth, Texas, on October 31.
Vekic, who underwent knee surgery after last year's Australian Open, can hold her head high after notching wins over Danielle Collins, Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova and pushing the world's top player to three sets in the final.
"I'm pretty happy that you're back and hopefully we are going to play many finals," Swiatek said.
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