Iga Swiatek is elite of elite at season-ending WTA Finals

Oct 29, 2022, 11:06 PM | Updated: Oct 30, 2022, 11:53 am
FILE -  Iga Swiatek, of Poland, returns a shot to Ons Jabeur, of Tunisia, during the women's single...

FILE - Iga Swiatek, of Poland, returns a shot to Ons Jabeur, of Tunisia, during the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in New York. Top-ranked Iga Swiatek and 18-year-old American Coco Gauff have been drawn into the same round-robin group at the WTA Finals, which starts Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

              Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, both of the United States, practice at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
            
              Jessica Pegula, of the United States, smiles during practice at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
            
              Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, reacts during practice at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
            
              FILE -  Coco Gauff, of the United States, returns a shot to Madison Keys, of the United States, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, in New York. Top-ranked Iga Swiatek and 18-year-old American Coco Gauff have been drawn into the same round-robin group at the WTA Finals, which starts Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
            
              Ons Jabeur, of Tunisia, practices at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
            
              Iga Swiatek, of Poland, talks during a press conference at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
            
              FILE -  Iga Swiatek, of Poland, returns a shot to Ons Jabeur, of Tunisia, during the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in New York. Top-ranked Iga Swiatek and 18-year-old American Coco Gauff have been drawn into the same round-robin group at the WTA Finals, which starts Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Iga Swiatek’s body of work in 2022 speaks for itself.

She’s been No. 1 in the rankings since April. She owns a tour-leading eight titles, including two at Grand Slam tournaments. She’s collected a year’s-best 64 victories heading into the WTA Finals that begin Monday, including a 37-match unbeaten run from February to June that was the longest in women’s tennis in a quarter-century.

Add it all up, and she’s developing an aura of intimidation.

“Yeah, she’s a challenge,” said Caroline Garcia, who is in the same round-robin group as Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Daria Kasatkina at the eight-player tournament that caps the season. “WTA Finals is a challenge, but she’s a challenge just by herself.”

The other singles group gets things going on Day 1 on the slow- and low-bouncing indoor hard court at Dickies Arena, with Jessica Pegula facing Maria Sakkari — a rematch of Pegula’s 6-2, 6-3 victory a week ago in the final of the Guadalajara Open for her first career WTA 1000 trophy — and Ons Jabeur taking on Aryna Sabalenka.

On Tuesday, Swiatek faces Kasatkina, before Garcia meets Gauff.

Given everything the 21-year-old Swiatek has accomplished this year — and it’s a lot — how does she stay motivated?

The answer she offered was somewhat surprising: She doesn’t, necessarily.

“I feel like I also accepted that I don’t have to feel … always 100% motivated. Sometimes, especially after Grand Slams, when you are playing these smaller tournaments, you feel the energy level is a little bit lower,” Swiatek said. “But on the other hand, when I’m going on court, it’s still the same, and I always want to win. I’m basing my motivation on that.”

She summed it up this way: “It’s OK, sometimes, to not be so pumped, you know?”

Swiatek owns a winning record against all of the other members of the field except Sakkari, a two-time major semifinalist who is 3-2 head-to-head.

“She has been playing some great tennis this year, and she has changed a lot of things mentally and tennis-wise,” Sakkari said. “There’s a lot of respect from my side to her side. I know it’s the same from her side to my side. So it’s very exciting to have someone that young that actually does all these great things for the sport. But she’s a human being. She’s like everyone else in this room.”

Maybe.

But no one else on tour has come even close to consistently solving Swiatek’s mix of big topspin forehand, variety and ability to change tactics mid-match.

No one came within 15 match wins of Swiatek’s total.

No one else has won more than three WTA titles this season.

Swiatek is also the first woman since 2016 to win two Grand Slam trophies in one year.

Unlike other tournaments, there is no chance to ease into things at the WTA Finals. Every opponent is among the elite. It just so happens that Swiatek is the elite of the elite.

Even so, she looks at this as a relatively new experience. Swiatek made her debut in the event last year, when she was eliminated in the group stage.

“For sure, you have to be ready from the beginning,” Swiatek said. “I want to see how it’s going to go for me because, still, I feel like I’m learning.”

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Troy Stecher, left, taunts Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras after Zebr...
Associated Press

Zegras scores in OT, Ducks beat Coyotes for 3rd win a row

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Trevor Zegras scored at 3:34 of overtime and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Saturday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season. John Klingberg stole the puck from Matias Maccelli in the offensive zone and found Zegras in the slot for a wrist shot for […]
1 day ago
Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) and Cody Ceci (5) celebrate a goal against the Chicago Blackha...
Associated Press

Oilers head into All-Star break with win over Blackhawks

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Tyson Barrie scored twice, Connor McDavid had his NHL-best 41st goal and the Edmonton Oilers headed into their All-Star break with a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman each had a goal and two assists, and Evander Kane and Ryan McLeod also […]
1 day ago
Seattle Kraken center Ryan Donato, rear, watches as the puck rests behind Columbus Blue Jackets goa...
Associated Press

Wennberg scores against former team, Kraken top Blue Jackets

SEATTLE (AP) — Alex Wennberg scored midway through the second period against his former team to help the Seattle Kraken beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Saturday night. Wennberg, who was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the first round in 2013, had his 10th goal of the season in his 600th career game. […]
1 day ago
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers forward Jera...
Associated Press

Achiuwa leads Raptors to 123-105 win over Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Precious Achiuwa scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in place of the injured OG Anunoby to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 123-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Pascal Siakam scored 24 points and Gary Trent Jr. added 19 against his former team for the Raptors, […]
1 day ago
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) watches as the puck gets past him on a goal as M...
Associated Press

Gaudreau secures shootout win as Wild beat Buffalo 3-2

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mats Zuccarello, Kirill Kaprizov and Freddy Gaudreau scored in the shootout, lifting the Minnesota Wild past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday night. Joel Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon had goals in regulation for Minnesota, which headed into its All-Star break with two wins in a row. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped […]
1 day ago
Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown (7) fouls Los Angeles Lakers' Thomas Bryant (31) during the first half...
Associated Press

Brown forces OT, Celtics snap skid by beating LA 125-121

BOSTON (AP) — Lakers guard Patrick Beverly grabbed a courtside camera in an effort to show referee Eric Lewis what everyone who’d watched the replay already knew: LeBron James was fouled on his missed layup at the end of regulation. Instead of getting the call, Beverly drew a technical foul that gave Boston the lead […]
1 day ago
Iga Swiatek is elite of elite at season-ending WTA Finals