Four of the top six players in the WTA rankings -- World No.1 Iga Swiatek, No.4 Jessica Pegula, No.5 Caroline Garcia and No.6 Coco Gauff -- will kick off their 2023 Middle East swings this week at the WTA 500 Qatar TotalEnergies Open in Doha.
While the Top 4 seeds received first-round byes, their week still started early as they each took questions from the press on Monday in advance of their opening contests. Here are some highlights from Media Day:
No.1 seed Iga Swiatek
On defending her 2022 titles: "I feel like every year it's a different story and every tournament is a different story. It just doesn't make sense for me to think about last year's tournament and this year's tournament and think that it's the same story. It's not, because a lot can happen in one year."
On comparisons between 2022 vs. 2023: "I thought that maybe in a few years I'm going to be that kind of player who is going to be so consistent to be World No. 1, and I wasn't expecting it to happen last year. So for sure I was surprised, but honestly, I wasn't really thinking about that throughout the whole season. I was just doing my job and playing as best as possible, and it happened.
pauliga practice: doha edition 🤝@paulabadosa | @iga_swiatek | #QatarTennis pic.twitter.com/jCcIb8IcVf— wta (@WTA) February 13, 2023
"I know that even myself I'm gonna come back sometimes to what happened last year, but I just want to kind of switch these thoughts and think about the future a little bit more, because I just feel like comparing all the time, it's not going to be helpful.
"I know that it's part of the job basically, and this is why it's so hard to be consistent throughout your whole career. I'm kind of treating it as a challenge."
No.2 seed Jessica Pegula
On developing her game over time: "I think athletic-wise I'm not like Iga or Coco where I'm sliding all over the court, but I think my hand-eye coordination is also very, very good, so I'm able to time the ball well. ... I think it's just how I kind of always hit the ball and struck the ball, and it just became more my game style as I got older.
"Obviously playing that way I have to be careful with my margin and what shots I go for. So I think as I got older I developed it a lot more into playing smarter, being more efficient, trying to take the ball earlier, and then try to be aggressive as well but keep my margins in.
"I think when I'm playing hard and deep that it really bothers a lot of girls, because the ball stays pretty low and kind of skids through the court. ... I think it was just how I grew up playing and striking the ball and naturally just how I like to play."
How Pegula's essay inspired fellow players
Hi 🇶🇦 👋🏼 https://t.co/Vc00i8PD3O— Jessie Pegula (@JLPegula) February 12, 2023
On being a "late bloomer": "Probably Australian Open [quarterfinals] three years ago now was a big turning point. ... After that, actually I ended up coming [to Doha] and qualifying and making [the semifinals] as well. So that kind of whole swing definitely really helped me and was a big tournament for me.
"I would say I'm kind of a little bit of a late bloomer, but I think nowadays we are seeing players play much later into their careers, so hopefully that will change. Maybe it won't be so much 'late bloomer,' maybe it's just the game everyone is kind of growing at a different pace."
No.3 seed Caroline Garcia
On her rankings surge during the second half of 2022: "I don't think it's only one thing. ... I was able to practice and to play tournaments with a vision, you know. It was not just, 'OK, I know I can play two matches but no more.' I was feeling more and more confident in my body to be able to train and to play a lot of matches.
"And then that time off tennis also made me realize what kind of game style I want to play, which game style I'm enjoying on court. When I came back, that was what I wanted to do."
No.4 seed Coco Gauff
On offense vs. defense: "I can hit big shots, but I think it's something I need to do more often. That's what I'm working on and doing it at the right moments, as well. Not that I need to be stepping inside the court and being a big hitter, because I feel like I have the physicality to play more of an all-around game.
"So I think I don't need to swing for the fences, but also think I need to be more offensive. I feel like I'm strong enough to do it whenever I want, but you can't really hit the ball that hard when you're not in the right position. So I think it's all about finding the right position and learning when to attack and when not to attack."
Gauff, Osaka, Serena praise Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime show
On growing up quickly: "I think that's just my personality in general. I'm the oldest of three siblings. ... I think I have had a lot of life experiences early on and learned a lot early on. I don't know, I feel like I always know what I need to do and what I should do. Now it's all about doing it, which, that's the difficult part.
"At a young age I was always the best of my age group or top of my age group, and that comes with a lot of pressure, so pressure is something I have dealt with my whole life. ... It's something that you learn to deal [with] better and better. The more you experience early on, the more you're able to kind of combat those feelings and understand it early on."