As Iga Swiatek looks ahead to the 2022 season, she is certain of one thing: There will never be a season as stressful as 2021.
Last year, Swiatek, 20, had to manage the pressure of a sophomore season that came on the heels of a breakthrough 2020 Roland Garros triumph. No longer an underdog, the Worl No.9 was thrust into the challenge of balancing the pressure of proving her Parisian fortnight wasn't a fluke and the challenge of defending a Slam for the first time, while playing her first Olympics as a newly minted national hero.
Despite her inexperience, Swiatek responded with her first Top 10 season and first qualification for the WTA Finals. She picked up two more trophies, in Rome and Adelaide, where she is scheduled to kick off her 2022 campaign next week.
"Adelaide was great because I know that usually people have doubts when you win a Grand Slam, if you're going to be able to keep being in the same shape and going down a good path," Swiatek told WTA Insider. "I had the same doubts, because even before winning Roland Garros I didn't play great tournaments. So winning this tournament, it really gave me a lot of confidence."
Swiatek spoke to WTA Insider to discuss the progress she made this past season and her own questions for 2022.
WTA Insider: At what point during the 2021 season did you finally feel like you could relax?
Swiatek: I would say after the Olympics. That was a pretty hard time for me. With Roland Garros, then Wimbledon, then the Olympics, there was a lot going on and a lot of pressure. And it wasn't stopping because as soon as I finished a tournament, I was preparing for the next one and switching surfaces all the time, which is not giving a lot of confidence.
So after the Olympics, I could take a little bit of time off. It still wasn't ideal, but I needed it because I felt like I just needed to reset and I needed more time to do that than usual. So after that period, it was much better because I could just come back to playing again and not worry about all this stuff.
But I saw an Anett Kontaveit quote about playing these tournaments at the end of the season. She thought she should be super chilled out after each tournament, but she's still waiting for that moment. I'm kind of in the same state.
I'm looking forward to recharge and then be ready for the whole of next year because I can't imagine playing on that intensity for the next six years. At some point, I'm not going to want to see a tennis court. So hopefully year by year, I'm going to be able to rest a bit more and worry a bit less.
WTA Insider: What were you curious about going into 2021?
Swiatek: I was curious if I'm going to be able to deal with all the expectations and if I'm going to be one of these players who are not consistent. I know that I still can sometimes have better results, but I feel consistent. I feel this year was pretty great for me. So yeah, I was curious about that.
WTA Insider: What about off the court?
Swiatek: I was curious if there's going to be ever a time where I'm going to have time to just sit down and not be a tennis player and celebrity. I felt that after the Olympics that happened.
But the first part of the year, I feel like I had a lot of energy and I was really enthusiastic about my new position, that I didn't let myself rest. Now, I feel like my lack of good attitude is more similar to how I was before I won the French Open.
WTA Insider: How so?
Swiatek: Like not really being all the time focused on the tennis and the world of tennis. I'm still not the best example of playing without expectations. I know I'm repeating this because this is basically my goal at every tournament. But I haven't reached that level yet.
WTA Insider: So what are you curious about for 2022?
Swiatek: I'm curious if my energy is going to last till the end of the season if I'm only going to take one week off during this preseason. Because when we started this year, we were all pretty fresh because we only played like four tournaments in 2020.
This year was more intense because of all the traveling that we had, because the tour wasn't constructed like usual so it wasn't really convenient. I'm just curious if it's going to show next year, maybe.
WTA Insider: Do you think you'll ever have to deal with as much as you had to deal with last season?
Swiatek: I think it's going to be much easier, you know? Because also, I feel tennis-wise I developed so I can win matches more easily. So that's very positive because it's being more efficient.
But also, when I'm back home, it became pretty easy because we were working with my management team and my PR team to really construct a system that was going to help me rest sometimes. So maybe next year I'm going to be able to like squeeze all the photoshoots in blocks. This year, I wasn't able to do that because it was new for us. And also the partnerships that I have with my sponsors are pretty fresh. So now, we met each other and I think it's going to be easier to do that.
So I think in those terms, it's going to be easier next year because I'm going to have more time off at home.
WTA Insider: Looking ahead to Adelaide, how important was that title for you? You came into the year with so many questions.
Swiatek: Adelaide I remember, it was kind of like going there after the Australian Open, it was like going to a really calm and peaceful place. I wasn't stressed at all. I realized that this week would be like a rest for me. So even though I was still in the tournament and I was playing my highest level, I treated it like some kind of rest, like mental rest.
It's pretty fun to have that kind of break. It was the same when I came to Eastbourne before Wimbledon. You don't have many obligations when you play smaller tournaments. So it's even more fun sometimes.