GUADALAJARA, Mexico - It's easy to forget this was Iga Swiatek's first full season on the WTA Tour considering all she has accomplished.
Swiatek, who won last year's French Open title, quickly evolved from a talented teenager tag to a marked target in 2021. She was well aware she would be under intense scrutiny this season.
Still, Swiatek, now 20, felt she had much to prove, both to herself and the outside world.
"I would say there were many situations that, because I played some tournaments I've never been to, being seeded there, it was pretty weird because I'd never been there," Swiatek said. "Right now my ranking is so high that I was seeded. I could also get some new experiences.
"I would say the most tricky thing was learning how to play with the higher ranking because usually I was an underdog. I still feel like I didn't figure it out completely. That was pretty tricky."
🇲🇽 Not the full summary of my season, but some thoughts just after my last match of it.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) November 16, 2021
🇲🇽 Nie zrobię dziś pełnego podsumowania sezonu, ale chcę podzielić się kilkoma myślami na gorąco: pic.twitter.com/TyyLYbCgYZ
For Swiatek's coach Piotr Sierzputowski, 2021 was a success. His focus was to improve Swiatek's consistency.
She finished the season as the only woman on tour to make the second week of all four majors. Swiatek also won a WTA 500 in Adelaide and picked up a second clay title at the marquee 1000-level event in Rome.
This ultimately led to her Top 10 debut and her first qualification for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. Although she failed to reach the semifinals, she finished her season with a win over Paula Badosa in the final match in her group.
"I would say that we achieved all the goals we set," Sierzputowski told WTA Insider in Guadalajara. "In the last preseason, where we set up to get to the small finals, the WTA Elite Trophy, not even here. So we went way above. Of course, we put it as a dream, as a goal that was maybe possible, but you have to play really, really consistently for your whole year and have a few great results."
Looking ahead to next season, Swiatek's goal is to learn from all her new experiences and to have a more relaxed perspective on her tennis.
"[This time next year] I would love to be as a player more settled in everything, not going from being super confident to, 'Hey, I'm new here, I don't really know what to do,'" Swiatek said. "Just trust myself a little bit more.
"I would love to be more efficient and more chilled out, just remember that tennis is not everything, kind of have more distance to everything."
WTA Insider spoke to Sierzputowski to get his perspective from the coaching box:
WTA Insider: What do you think was the key to her consistency, not just at the Slams but on the tour as well?
Sierzputowski: I'm super happy about the season. She really, like, spoke out loudly that she really belongs here. It's not by mistake that she won a Grand Slam. That Grand Slam didn't count to get to the WTA Finals. It wasn't two weeks, it was a whole season. Of course, there is a lack of some more successes this year, for sure. But I'm happy about it because it's like a hunger you can get so you can get new positive energy for the next year, for your next goals.
She lost only two matches on the WTA Tour that I would say she lost because she was tight, not because she was on that day the weaker player. Of course, you can always improve through the match and try to bring your mental higher, but I do not expect her to do this as she's 20 years old. She has to learn, she has to get the knowledge, she has to get experience.
🥏It has been announced some time ago but because of pandemic I got my trophy in Miami. Isn't it nice? Thank you @wta for the recognition and this beautiful frisbee (plate).— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) April 6, 2021
2020 WTA Most Improved Player of the Year. pic.twitter.com/N9TdTsyHS0
But I think the most important part for this year was like being a bit separate, being like, we have a bigger perspective, not trying to catch high results straight away. I know that she won Adelaide, but she was really well prepared for the Australia swing. Even with this quarantine time, I think we did a really, really good job. After she lost to Halep in Australia, we went to Adelaide and we just put in some small stuff, which really worked and she played great tennis.
Overall for her, I think the biggest lesson from this year is how to play well when you don't play good. This is two different stories, because I know how she can play when she is relaxed, when she is well prepared, when she is healthy. But you're never going to feel that way at the end of the season or even in the middle of the season.
Right now she has to get used to it, that feeling that sometimes the forehand is not working, backhand is not working, serve is not going in sixty five percent of the time. You have to live with it and I think this is the skill which the best players in the world have so they can be the best players.
That's the biggest lesson from this year. And I think for the next year, we have to set up different goals.
🏆😊Four happy kids...— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) February 27, 2021
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. It definitely would be less fun without you.
🏆😊Team. Dziękuję, że jesteście ze mną. Bez Was byłoby mi zdecydowanie mniej zabawnie.@Sierzputowsky@abramowiczd@MRyszczuk pic.twitter.com/H5GDdBq52h
WTA Insider: The last time we spoke, you said your hope was that in a few years, Iga would have the experience and knowledge where coaching her would be like moving her around on a chessboard. How much progress did you make on that this season?
Sierzputowski: I feel like Iga found that she can play differently, not only one kind of style, but still she needs to learn how to use it, how to manage it, how to be a different player in one match, like two different players actually. The same like with what happened with Krejcikova [in Rome].
WTA Insider: She wasn't very happy with herself after that match.
Sierzputowski: She didn't play it "nicely." She won, and we are always happy with the win, but you can make it with better style, with better behaving, better attitude, even for herself, to feel better, that she did something right. Something positive, rather than I had to do this to win, like she cheated herself. So I think we are far away from that. I said, three years, I feel like it's two years still.
We didn't do any shortcuts this year. I think she was constantly improving. She's looking for ways to win the matches. She's trying different stuff. She is trying to use the tools, but still believing in the tools which got her here. Sometimes it's really difficult because you have some set of tools which bring you here and right now why would you change it?
You have to improve every year. It's really visible with Rafa, who starts at 17 playing totally different tennis. Right now, he's 35 and playing totally different than he was in the past. But this is the only way. Everybody is learning your tennis. Everybody is trying to find a way to win with you, and that's what you have to improve every year. You have to improve your stats.
🤩This is me and Rafa just casually showing his quads...— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) May 17, 2021
Just kidding. You're so kind @RafaelNadal, thank you for taking the time before the match.
🤩Oto ja, Rafa i jego udo...
A poważnie, dziękuję życzliwość, klasę i czas poświęcony przed meczem na zrobienie sobie tego zdjęcia. pic.twitter.com/smqsDV0qQt
WTA Insider: We're speaking on November 15th and you're probably looking ahead to a quick turnaround to Australia. How do think this shortened window will impact your preparation for 2022?
Sierzputowski: I really don't know. I tell you honestly that I have no plan right now. We will have a big conversation tomorrow. We will see what will be the results because if I want Iga to be 100 percent ready for the first tournament in Australia, I would have to start practicing on November 25th, so almost straightaway coming back from here. It's not possible because mentally, physically, she will be drained like crazy. So let's see.
I will give her permission to take the decision. She is the most important person. She has to feel well. She just has to know what are the pros and cons are of a longer time of not playing. That's something she has to understand. Maybe we will decide that we're not going to do a full pre-season. Maybe we're going to cut it in half, take two or three weeks off just to have fun, relax and then come with a fresh mind for the next long full season. So we'll see.
I just want her to be healthy. I want her to feel comfortable with it and want her to know what's going to happen. If you expect something is not going to be your way, it's always easier to manage when goes better.