Iga Swiatek emerged as the WTA’s top-performing player in one of the tightest finishes to the WTA Race.
Despite playing second fiddle to Aryna Sabalenka for 95% of the season, Swiatek had a faultless finish in the final two tournaments to swing the pendulum on her side. She won 68 matches this year, at least one more than during her stunning 2022 season.
Although her dominance waned at Grand Slam level and the WTA 1000 tournaments in comparison to the past year, her aura of invincibility never eluded her, and her opponents would attest to this. On that note, let’s delve into what made the Polish star earn our vote as the season’s Player of the Year.
Year-End Ranking: 1st
Coming to the 2023 season, the big question was whether Swiatek would continue to tick all the boxes on the self-improvement grid and eclipse her previous season’s accomplishments. In 2022, she won two Grand Slams and finished the year as the WTA’s No. 1 for the first time.
Since replacing Ashleigh Barty at the top of the rankings in early April, the Pole did not loosen her grip on the World No. 1 spot. But 2023 presented its own set of challenges. First, the emergence of Aryna Sabalenka posed a serious threat to Swiatek’s No. 1 spot.
The Belarusian’s first Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open served as an early wake-up call. But if we learned anything this season is that Swiatek was like a willow tree – bending but never breaking. Testament to this is her determination to improve her mental strength.
Swiatek’s resilience came to the fore when she lost the No. 1 ranking for the first time in over a year at the end of the US Open. But she had the last laugh as she swept the last two big tournaments (Beijing and Cancun) to reclaim her throne from Sabalenka – her nearest challenger this season.
Season’s Accomplishments: Third Roland Garros, First WTA Finals, Prize Money Leader
If there was one word to describe Swiatek’s 2023 season, it is, by her own admission: gratitude. The central pillars of her success were her backroom team, including her longtime psychologist Daria Abramowicz who has played a massive part in improving the mental side of her game.
Not only did Swiatek reserve her appreciation to her team, but also to her fellow pros who have helped her to become a better player. Swiatek’s campaign began in tears at the United Cup when she lost to Jessica Pegula.
But she finished it off with a resounding win over the American to win the WTA Finals for the first time. Overall, Swiatek won a tour-leading six singles titles in 2023, including a third Roland Garros crown in June. She defeated first-time Grand Slam finalist Karolina Muchova in the final despite trailing 2-4 in the third set.
For the second straight year, she also topped the season’s prize money charts, earning $9,857,686, ahead of the likes of Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff.