As the summer approached and the North American hardcourt tournaments took center stage, Iga Swiatek’s frustration was evident. Despite her impressive accomplishments in the season, including winning her third French Open title and four titles overall, she had not been able to replicate the success of her unforgettable 2022 season. However, her consistent performances had led to an impressive win-loss record of 53-8.
However, for certain individuals, that was insufficient. Following a comeback from a deficit to dominant a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Zheng Qinwen in Cincinnati, Swiatek began her press conference with a solo speech, urging supporters to be more optimistic and less harsh towards her performance. She acknowledged that some individuals had gone as far as sending emails to her team, criticizing their efforts. It was evident that the increased scrutiny of being the center of attention in her sport was taking a toll on her.
Swiatek admitted that today’s game was not flawless, letting out a sigh. “We all witnessed that. But the excessive hatred and criticism directed towards me and my team, even after losing just one set, is absurd.”
In the previous season, Swiatek faced pressure from various sources. She had to handle increased expectations and unwelcome views, while her opponents were getting closer. Sabalenka’s exceptional performance added pressure on Swiatek’s top spot, Rybakina defeated her in all three encounters, and Pegula won against her for the second time in 2023 during that week. Shortly after, Gauff also claimed her first victory over Swiatek.
Despite facing many challenges, Swiatek continues to be the top player in her sport following a highly successful week at the WTA Finals in Cancún. Along with her powerful and accurate groundstrokes, her exceptional athleticism and flawless return game, Swiatek has once again demonstrated her unwavering dedication to her craft and a strong mental resilience that sets her apart from others.
It cannot be emphasized enough that Swiatek is well on her way to becoming one of the greatest players of all time. At the age of 22, she has already achieved four grand slam titles, 17 overall titles, and spent 76 weeks as the world’s number one player. Out of the 14 major titles currently available (including grand slams, WTA Finals, and WTA 1000s), she has won eight different events. Most top players have a win rate of around 80%, and no woman has even come close to matching Maria Sharapova’s success in this regard. Swiatek’s career main draw record stands at an impressive 199-52 (79.3%).
This particular season was notable due to the progress made by the leading players. Swiatek accumulated 9295 points and Sabalenka earned 9050 points, marking the first instance since 2012 where the top two players have finished with more than 9000 points.
Sabalenka’s mental and physical growth has been a major highlight of the season. She has mastered the use of her incredible strength, resulting in consecutive wins and a level of consistency that has propelled her to the top spot.
Despite showing significant progress, she could have accomplished even more. Sabalenka lost commanding leads in her matches against Karolina Muchova and Ons Jabeur in the semi-finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, and also held a lead against Gauff in the US Open final. While she showed great determination after each defeat, her mindset hindered her performance. These shortcomings should serve as enough incentive for the 25-year-old to compete against Swiatek once again in 2024.
Gauff was eliminated from the first round of Wimbledon and left feeling emotional. She began to doubt if she could truly accomplish the ambitious goals she had set for herself years ago. However, after hiring Brad Gilbert as her father stepped back, the 19-year-old rebounded and had a successful summer, culminating in winning the US Open. As long as she maintains her strong work ethic and makes wise choices, this is just the start of her promising career.
Marketa Vondrousova caused a major upset at Wimbledon, winning the tournament while ranked 42nd in a season known for its stability. Despite still adjusting to her new level of play, the 24-year-old has a strong arsenal of shots that make her a formidable opponent on clay and at Roland Garros. Jabeur, on the other hand, regrets not winning the Wimbledon final and is still recovering from the heartbreak of losing her first three major finals. While Elena Rybakina’s performance towards the end of the season may have faltered, the 24-year-old has proven she can be a consistent presence and her 2022 Wimbledon victory is unlikely to be her last major accomplishment.
Several players rose to the occasion, however, there were also noticeable absences. Naomi Osaka is set to make her comeback in January after becoming a mother to her daughter, Shai, and taking a much-needed break from the sport. She is one of the few players who can challenge Swiatek, but only if she is fully focused and motivated. Emma Raducanu, on the other hand, will also return after an eight-month hiatus due to two hand surgeries and ankle surgery in April. Her decision on coaches continues to make headlines, but it is still uncertain if her body is ready for the demands of professional tennis.
Similar to Swiatek, these winners have faced challenges due to the intense scrutiny that comes with their achievements. However, they, along with many others, will have another chance in 2024. While the top players strive to maintain their positions that they have earned through hard work, others will have a fresh start and new opportunities.