No 1 Swiatek looks to cap big year with WTA Finals crown

tennis29 October 2022 21:42| © AFP
Iga Swiatek © Gallo Images

Reigning US and French Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland seeks her ninth WTA title of the year and her 12th career crown when the season-ending WTA Finals begin Monday.

The $5 million indoor hardcourt event will feature the world's eight top-ranked women's singles players and doubles teams with group-stage matches through Saturday setting up semifinals on November 6 with the title matches on November 7.

An unbeaten run to the singles crown is worth $1.68 million, but after making her Finals debut last year, top-ranked Swiatek knows it's a unique challenge compared to the usual WTA tournaments.

"It's just going to be a challenge to play against the top players day-by-day, not have time to have these easier first two rounds," Swiatek said. "So I'm curious if I'll be able to play my top tennis from A to Z."

Swiatek, the only reigning Grand Slam champion in the field, has won eight titles this year, two at Grand Slams plus Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and at San Diego only two weeks ago.

Her three highest-ranked rivals at Fort Worth – second-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, third-ranked Jessica Pegula and fourth-ranked US 18-year-old Coco Gauff – are all making their WTA Finals debut.

"It's a totally different experience, so having qualified before will help a lot," Swiatek said. "I'm curious how physically I will be able to play this tournament after such a long season.

"It will be a test for me. Last year, mentally and physically I felt I didn't have much power. This year we did some things differently to have the energy at the end, so I'm curious to see if it actually worked."

It's also the second WTA Finals singles appearance for Greece's fifth-ranked Maria Sakkari, France's sixth-ranked Caroline Garcia and seventh-ranked Aryna Sabalenka while eighth-ranked Daria Kasatkina is making her debut.

Gauff is the youngest player in the singles field while Garcia, at 29, is the oldest.

Pegula and Gauff are doing double duty as a doubles pairing and contenders for the singles crown.

Sabalenka, from Belarus, and Kasatkina, from Russia, are not allowed to compete for their homelands due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Czech defending doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who won three Grand Slam titles this year, return as top seeds, but 2021 singles champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain did not qualify in this year's season points race.