2023 was another stellar year for Iga Swiatek. Finishing with a tour-best record in both match wins and titles, the Pole finished off the season with a flourish, taking the WTA 1000 title in Beijing before emphatically sweeping away the WTA Finals field to take the title and clinch the year-end No 1 spot in the process.
But these successes were hard-fought, and they came despite the emergence of several worthy challengers to the crown Swiatek so dominantly owned in 2022.
Speaking exclusively on his newly-launched Instagram channel, one that will provide analysis on topics across the ATP, WTA and UTS tours, Patrick Mouratoglou gives his insight into the challenge Aryna Sabalenka posed to Swiatek this year, and how this affected the Pole.
Another excellent year for Swiatek, but one not without its challenges
“Iga one more time ends the year as No 1 in the world, so we can talk about dominance,” Mouratoglou explains.
“Of course, there is less room between her and the other players. This year, we have to realise that Sabalenka did an incredible job. She improved a lot. She is very dangerous, and she threatened Iga a lot.”
As well as the arrival of the Belarusian as a genuine threat to Swiatek’s dominance, there were seismic breakthroughs for other players that will give the Pole and her team much to think about in the coming years.
I feel that Iga is someone who has a lot of doubts. But she takes doubts away with work, and work brings victories.
Mouratoglou on Swiatek’s mindset and work ethic
The summer of 2023 belonged to Coco Gauff. Winning the three biggest titles of her career, the culmination of which was her maiden Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows, Gauff defeated Swiatek for the first time in eight attempts along the way, finally proving herself as a worthy rival to the Pole.
This may have had more of an impact on Swiatek than many at the time realised.
“She [Iga] lost to Coco before the US Open. Of course it played a role, because it hurt her confidence.
“I feel that Iga is someone who has a lot of doubts. But she takes doubts away with work, and work brings victories. But when she starts to be threatened, when she starts to be beaten a few times, its affects her confidence a lot.
“That’s why this year was more difficult, because Sabalenka really hurt her this year. It hurt her confidence a little bit, compared to last year when she was so dominant.”
Swiatek reasserts authority on the rest of the field with superb season’s finish
Despite losing the world No 1 ranking to the Belarusian this year, Swiatek pulled off an exquisite end-of-season flourish to surge back to the top spot in the final match of the year by winning the WTA Finals, defeating Sabalenka along the way to ensure she recaptured the crown.
“She [Swiatek] still ends the season with a Slam and the WTA Finals win, and being No 1 in the world, so I think we can still talk about dominance.
“But it’s not as much as before. Now, the other players feel they can beat her. The year before, not so much.”
Swiatek’s late-season acceleration to the finish line turned a very good season into an undisputedly excellent one.
After her majestic 2022 success, during which she compiled a devastating 37-match winning streak, the question turned to how the Pole would respond to new challenges and greater threats once they emerged.
This year, those challenges came, and it has been fascinating watching Swiatek respond to this. After her US Open fourth-round departure, there were one or two question marks around Iga’s ability to handle such pressure.
But these doubts were premature.
Swiatek showed the quality and composure of a truly generational talent in the way she signed off her 2023 season, utterly unbowed by expectation and with full belief in her ability to conquer the field.
“Her No 1 quality is her focus and her ability to produce every day the same quality.
“She is someone who is extremely professional, extremely dedicated to tennis and focused on her career.
“She works on everything… she works on every aspect of her game with the same intensity and the same quality.”
The challenges will only grow bigger for Swiatek as a new season comes into view – neither Sabalenka nor the likes of Rybakina and Gauff are going to let up on the pressure they exert on the No 1 – but as another year on the WTA circuit draws to a close, it is the scintillating Swiatek who once again sets the standard.
The rest, for now, remain in the rear-view mirror.