Iga Swiatek captured her fourth career title in dominant fashion, dropping only one set en route to the title at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open. The Polish star now has a Slam and two WTA 1000 titles under her belt before the age of 21 and will return to her career-high No.4 on Monday.
But it was the way Swiatek won Doha that left the biggest impression. Long thought of as a clay-court specialist - even she bought into the description - Swiatek has quickly proved she's a top-level threat on hard courts this year. Under the tutelage of veteran coach Tomasz Wiktorowski, Swiatek began the season with a run to the Adelaide semifinals, followed by her first Slam semifinal on a hard court at the Australian Open.
Then en route to the biggest hard-court title of her career in Doha, Swiatek defeated three Top 10 players at a single event for the first time in her career. She followed a win over No.2 Aryna Sabalenka with her first win in four matches against No.6 Maria Sakkari. In the final she snapped No.7 Anett Kontaveit's nine-match winning streak, losing only two games in a 6-2. 6-0 win.
"[Tomasz] convinced me to change my approach towards my tennis," Swiatek said. "I am being more aggressive right now and I love that. At first I wasn't really convinced, so yeah, big thanks to him for showing me this different perspective.
"Practicing in Warsaw is a totally different story than going on tour, so I'm pretty happy the last few weeks have shown that we have a good relationship, and we have also like good mood in our team. We have fun. And it was always important for me to other members of the team to have a good relationship between each other, so I can have full support but also feel comfortable around them. They are giving me a lot."
Swiatek joined the WTA Insider Podcast from Doha to reflect on her new mindset and approach to her game and how her Doha run was different from her first three titles. She explains why she's now at peace after enduring many sleepless nights during the off-season.
Listen to the full interview with Swiatek below.
WTA Insider: Congratulations on your fourth title. You've had tough matches against Anett in the past. What do you think was the key to your win in Saturday's match? It seemed that you were able to hold her off in the first set and then ran away with it.
Swiatek: It's true, I'm pretty proud of that because my goal for the whole tournament, and basically for my new kind of tennis, is to put pressure on my opponents. Today you could see that I did that pretty well.
I was actually thinking before the match, what is the thing that she changed in her game that made her win so many tournaments and actually have this kind of record? I wanted to not let her do that, to be aggressive first and to lead on attack.
I know I'm saying that after every match, basically. But it's kind of important for me because I wasn't able to do that before against heavy hitters. I did that against Aryna here and against really solid players who are playing great topspin, like Kasatkina or Sakkari. Against Anett, it's kind of a mix of everything. She can play anything. I'm really proud of that because that just shows that we're doing a good job for me to get more variety in my tennis.
WTA Insider: You've spoken a lot this week about this variety that you now have in your game. What do you mean by that?
Swiatek: It's not a complicated thing. I was working pretty hard on my attack formations. I always felt that I'm really good at defense and I want to be as good and feel really comfortable as well when I'm going forward. So it's pretty easy, but at the end it's up to the details, you know?
Even though obviously I could attack, because I had a good ranking since a few years ago, it still didn't mean that I can beat those heavy hitters and play Top 5 or Top 10 tennis. Right now I feel I can do that because I just have more options and I can choose between them when I'm playing against some players. Obviously I'm not going to use each of them in every match but I just have in the back of my mind that even when I'm a break down or something, I still have skills to solve my problems and to play better.
WTA Insider: Your win over Sabalenka in the quarterfinals was particularly impressive. She's the biggest hitter on the tour but you were able to outhit her. How big was that win for you and how did it set you up for your wins over Sakkari and Kontaveit?
Swiatek: Well, for me, the most amazing thing was that I could keep that level of tennis. I could just continue doing the same stuff I did against not only Aryna but against Kasatkina as well. You could see the effects of that work mostly against Aryna because she's the most powerful player.
But for me this consistency and stability is the most important thing because I felt many times in my life that a few rounds of the tournament I'm playing good, and then suddenly my level of game is going down and I don't even know why, you know? Right now, I feel like I have more control over stuff. This is really cool. Even though it's not the thing that you're going to be most excited about because you can't sometimes even see it, it's giving me a lot of peace.
WTA Insider: With your success to start the season, you must be feeling good about your decision to bring Tomasz on.
Swiatek: Yes, for sure. It's relaxing because I'm feeling like I can have more peace of mind until the end of the season because it's also going to be easier to get into the WTA Finals or whatever my goal is going to be. Because at the end of last year it was pretty chaotic in terms of choosing which tournaments to play or not. Right now, I have this experience and also I have a more solid game at the beginning of the season.
Actually, it hit me after the match against Maria yesterday that this decision was actually a good one. I knew that, but after that match I thought whoa, I did something I couldn't do before. I think it's because of the new coach. Obviously, it's because I'm also developing and I'm mentally also better. But I would say that tactically and this new approach that I have in my mind, it gave me a lot and it showed that right now I can beat these kind of players like Maria or Aryna.
I cried a little bit after that match because I thought I had so many sleepless nights making a decision. But at the end, this decision was a good one for me, so I felt relief and I felt pretty proud of myself that I was able to do that.
WTA Insider: How much convincing did it take for you to buy into this new attacking mindset with respect to your game?
Swiatek: Well, the thing is that it's not like we started doing that, like, two months ago. When I was working with Piotr, he also was trying to implement that. I would say I was more stubborn back then. We were talking about that many times.
But actually, I think the last season showed me a lot because I was playing against such powerful players like Ostapenko in Indian Wells, Aryna, Badosa, who I played in Tokyo, which really hurt. And against Maria, she also can hit the ball really flat and low and hard. I thought, "Hey, something is missing in my game." I think I needed the whole preseason to work on that and to see that I can control these fast balls.
I think the best way to convince me is to show me that I'm able to do something, When I actually realized that I was like, "OK, I'm going to try that in matches now."
WTA Insider: You won Roland Garros playing your more "clay-court style" of game. It was successful. It could be difficult for a lot of players to move away from what had been a successful game style.
Swiatek: The thing is, at the end I always thought, hey, you can always come back to how you played before, but don't waste time. If there is something you can actually improve or get better at, I was always the kind of person who didn't want to waste time.
Why would I argue if I haven't tried something? I just wanted to do that. I realized that maybe it makes sense, but we will see. And I thought also, if it's not going to make sense, then I can say, hey, I was right.
WTA Insider: This new aggressive game style, does it come naturally for you at this point? Or do you have to really work to be mindful and get yourself to play this way?
Swiatek: No, come on. Honestly, I have to force myself to do everything because sometimes I'm talking to Daria and I'm like, should I even be thinking about going low on my legs? I'm doing this for so many years now. It should be natural. But no, everything I have to think through and I have to remember that stuff.
That's why tennis is so hard because you have so much time on court to get distracted. That's one thing. And the other thing is you have so many technical details or tactical to think about at once that it's sometimes hard to choose the proper one. But no, it's not natural.
I guess that's why it's hard to be an athlete because not many things are natural. Obviously, we all have talent. But I don't know, actually. Maybe for other players it's more natural.
There is some technical stuff that's kind of easy and there are some that you've been doing wrong for some time. Now you have to take care of that and do it right and suddenly change your habits. So this is also pretty tricky. But I like it.
“If sport can connect us even if a bit today and give us a tiny bit of joy in these tough moments, I’m grateful for that.”— wta (@WTA) February 26, 2022
- 🇵🇱@iga_swiatek sharing her support for the people of Ukraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/ityf5SXSJl
WTA Insider: How do you plan to celebrate this win?
Swiatek: Well, I'm not an expert on celebrating. Maybe the celebration is actually not thinking about tennis for a while. There's so much tennis in our lives that I think we have to cut everything off sometimes. So I'm going to have a few days when I'm going to see my friends. I'm going to use my driving license finally and drive the car in Warsaw a little bit.
I just want to chill out. I'm not the kind of person who's going to go to a party or something. I want to basically also physically come back fresh. This tournament was pretty hard for me physically. Even though I played just two sets, I felt like this aggressive game is really intense for my body.