Editor's note: From Monday to Thursday this week, we will look at the road each of the eight singles players and eight doubles took to qualify for this year's WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Season at a glance
Iga Swiatek engineered one of the best seasons of the century to cement herself as the top-ranked player on the Hologic WTA Tour.
While her 135-day unbeaten run and eight-title haul surpassed even her expectations, Swiatek showed signs of leveling-up as early as January, when she broke through at the Australian Open to make her first hard-court Slam semifinal.
Swiatek, 21, parlayed that newfound confidence to back-to-back WTA 1000 titles at the Qatar Total Open and Indian Wells, but she says the real shift came at the Miami Open, where she would end up winning her third straight 1000-level championship.
"When Ash [Barty] retired, I had two days of not knowing what my place is," Swiatek told WTA Insider. "I'm pretty happy that during this tournament I found out that I can play the same kind of tennis even if I became No.1.
"I spent some time proving that I can be at that place, so it was a whole process, but I would say it started in Miami. There was that shift."
- First Polish player to be ranked No.1 on the WTA or ATP
- Won 37 consecutive matches over the span of 135 days, the longest win streak on the Hologic WTA Tour since 1997.
- First player to win two Slam titles in a single season since 2016
- 8-1 record in finals
- 21 6-0 sets, the most since Serena's century-best mark of 25 in 2013
- First player to finish the regular season with more than 10,000 ranking points since Serena Williams in 2015
After winning in Miami, where she defeated Naomi Osaka in the final, Swiatek became the youngest player to complete the grueling Sunshine Double.
As Swiatek took the No.1 ranking into her most dominant surface on clay, the pack was already taking notice.
"Help us all," Jessica Pegula said jokingly as the clay season began.
Sure enough, Swiatek lost only two sets on clay and added three more titles to her tally, including a second Roland Garros.
Swiatek's 37-match win streak, the longest of the century, finally ended at Wimbledon, but she wasn't done yet.
She learned to adjust to the conditions on the U.S. hard courts to win two of her last three tournaments of the season, including the US Open, her third major title. Swiatek capped off her year with a trophy at the San Diego Open.
Champions Corners: Swiatek's 2022 ascent
- How Swiatek solved the puzzle in Doha
- Swiatek reflects on her surreal Indian Wells title run
- The mindset that paved the way for Swiatek's Sunshine Double in Miami
- Swiatek talks cars, memes, cats and more after Stuttgart romp
- Gilmore Girls, tiramisu, and well-earned downtime for Swiatek after Rome win
- Swiatek searches for new goals after second Roland Garros title
- Why the US Open was an uphill climb for Swiatek
- New approach, same result for Swiatek in San Diego
Swiatek qualified for the WTA Finals for a second straight season. Last year, she made her tournament debut.
"It's a totally different experience, so having qualified before will help a lot," Swiatek said. "I'm curious how physically I will be able to play this tournament after such a long season.
"So it will be a test for me. Last year, mentally and physically I felt I didn't have much power. This year we did some things differently to have the energy at the end, so I'm curious to see if it actually worked.
"It's just going to be a challenge to play against the top players day-by-day, not have time to have these easier first two rounds. So I'm curious if I'll be able to play my top tennis from A to Z."