Beijing: Iga vanquishes her doubts

 - Reem Abulleil

Polish world No.2 back to winning ways with fifth title of the season

Iga Swiatek / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

She’s won more matches than any other woman on tour this season, picked up a fourth Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros in June, and held onto the world No.1 ranking until September; yet still, Iga Swiatek arrived to Beijing last week riddled with doubts and searching for a boost in confidence.

When your standards are that high, missing out on a title defence or dropping down to No.2 in the world can be reason enough to make you question yourself.

But Swiatek is a problem-solver and the 22-year-old silenced her doubts – and doubters – with a brilliant week in Beijing, knocking out back-to-back top-10 opponents in Caroline Garcia and Coco Gauff en route to the final, before easing past Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-2 in Sunday’s final.

“It wasn't easy before the first match. I felt really anxious. I felt like usually after feeling down, I tend to bounce back. This was something that I was kind of expecting to do. It put even a little bit more pressure on myself,” said Swiatek of her mindset heading into Beijing.

Swiatek needed just 69 minutes to beat Samsonova, and committed ZERO unforced errors during the final. The Polish No.2 seed didn’t face a single break point in her last two matches and now owns a tour-leading 63 wins in 2023.

“I'm happy that I kind of adjusted to what Liudmila was playing. I wanted to really be consistent with what I wanted to do no matter how she's doing,” said Swiatek, who lifted the 16th trophy of her career and sixth at the WTA 1000 level.

“I'm happy that I won because, for sure, this is really big for me. Winning this title is something that I never would have thought at the beginning of the tournament about. I'm pretty proud of myself.”

It was a statement week for Swiatek, who snapped Gauff’s 16-match winning streak in the semis and survived a tough three-set affair with Garcia in the quarters.

“I feel like this tournament will give me confidence for the rest of my career that there's always ability, I mean, a chance to overcome and work on what you do or what you feel. You can always get better. Sometimes it's kind of pretty easy, but we tend to make it more complicated in our heads,” said Swiatek, who lost in the US Open fourth round to Jelena Ostapenko last month while attempting to defend her crown in New York.  

“I'm really happy that I just focused on hard work. It kind of paid off - maybe not instantly, but I'm happy that after US Open I just got back to basics and just worked really hard tennis-wise. I'll just continue to do that. For sure winning this trophy is something that will teach me a lesson for the rest of my life.”

Swiatek is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 and 2016 to win five or more titles in back-to-back seasons and is the only player to win six or more WTA 1000 trophies before the age of 23, surpassing Caroline Wozniacki’s five.

She will now shift her focus to the WTA Finals in Cancun, where she has a chance to reclaim her No.1 ranking from Aryna Sabalenka.

“I would say if I would become world No.1 again, for sure I think I would be kind of more prepared for everything. It's not like I would change some things exactly, but I would know how to deal with them at this point,” explained Swiatek, who spent 75 consecutive weeks at the summit of the rankings after Ashleigh Barty’s retirement last year.

“I think if I learn and take lessons from it, it's going to be easier. But for sure the first thing is getting there. I'll just try to do that. For now, step by step. I'll just celebrate this trophy.”

WTA Finals line-up complete

Meanwhile, Marketa Vondrousova, Ons Jabeur and Karolina Muchova have completed the eight-player field at the WTA Finals, which kick off in Cancun, Mexico on October 29.

Wimbledon champion Vondrousova and Roland-Garros runner-up Muchova will be making their WTA Finals debut, while Jabeur has qualified for the elite season finale for a second consecutive year.

The trio join world No.1 Sabalenka, Swiatek, Gauff, Elena Rybakina and Jessica Pegula in the singles draw.

“We’re happy to qualify, the three of us. We’re looking forward to play in Cancun. I think that’s every tennis player’s goal to play the Finals at the end of the season,” Jabeur told reporters in Zhengzhou, where she is competing this week.