Iga Swiatek was relentless in her pursuit of the first WTA Finals title of her career and claimed the crown with an emphatic 6-1, 6-0 victory over Jessica Pegula on Monday.
She ends 2023 as the undisputed best player in the world and claims the year-end No. 1 ranking for a second consecutive year. With her strong performance, Swiatek overtook Aryna Sabalenka by just a 295-point margin to capture the top spot.
Hosted in Cancun amidst much criticism over last-minute construction and questionable court conditions, the WTA Finals showed us a Swiatek who seemed dialed-in from the start and completely undistracted from the less-than-perfect setup. In losing only 20 games through all of her matches at the tournament, she bested the previous record of 32 lost by Serena Williams for the fewest dropped at the event.
In every round-robin match, Swiatek took at least one set by a lopsided scoreline. In round-robin play, she won every match she played: 7-6(3), 6-0 vs Marketa Vondrousova, 6-0, 7-5 vs Coco Gauff, and 6-1, 6-2 vs Ons Jabeur. Then in the semifinals, she defeated Sabalenka in a match with the World No. 1 ranking effectively on the line and won handily 6-3, 6-2 before her decisive victory against Pegula for the title.
While Cancun was rife with possible distractions for the participants, Swiatek embraced a positive attitude towards the obstacles and focused on the task at hand. Whether it be the extreme and unpredictable weather or the court conditions, she was able to block things out and just focus on her tennis.
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“Because of the wind, I think it's going to kind of even out every match because sometimes we're just going to make more mistakes or not control the ball as we could in different conditions,” Swiatek said at the start of the event. “It's also up to us how we're going to handle that. I think it's going to be more about that mental attitude toward these matches and how you accept some mistakes and also use opportunities that you have.”
Pegula also had a strong tournament but ran out of steam in the championship match. Playing in both the singles and doubles draw was quite an undertaking especially when matches became back-logged due to the rainfall. The American had not dropped a set through three group stage matches and her semifinal win over her doubles partner, Gauff.
“I want to say congrats to Iga and your team and family on an amazing year,” said Pegula after the match. “Ending the year No. 1 and winning this tournament. You continue to push me to be a better player every year. It makes me a much better player. I really appreciate that.
Gabriela Dabrowski was the lone Canadian representative at the WTA Finals. She and Kiwi partner Erin Routliffe have been the hottest doubles team on Tour in the last portion of the season with titles at the US Open and Zhengzhou as well as a finals appearances in Guadalajara at the WTA 1000 event.
In Cancun, the two got off to a fast start winning all three of their group stage matches in straight sets. They impressively took out No. 1 seeds Gauff and Pegula 7-6(2), 6-3, defeated eventual champions Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-2, and beat the always-tough Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 7-5.
In the semifinals however, Nicole Melichar and Ellen Perez got the better of them by a score of 6-1, 6-7(1), 10-6 to bring the tournament to a close for Dabrowski and Routliffe.
Still, over the last few months they have proven themselves to be one of the top teams in the women’s game and it should be exciting to see what they can accomplish together over a full season when the begin 2024 as a tandem. Dabrowski has re-established herself as one of the premiere doubles players in the world and Routliffe has found the confidence to play at that level as well for the first time in her professional career.
In doubles, it was the veteran tandem of Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva who emerged as champions. The sixth seeds defeated Nicole Melichar and Ellen Perez in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
"Everything was tight and close," Zvonareva said after the win. "And then we got a few small opportunities to take a break. And I think we did great on those opportunities. Every single opportunity that we had, we took advantage of."
It capped off a fantastic season for the pair who captured four titles together and also made the finals of the US Open in September. Siegemund is 35 years old and Zvonareva at 39 demonstrated that their combined experience is clearly an advantage for the two.
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