The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. Last week, World No.1 Iga Swiatek returned to competition with an exclamation mark as she defended her title at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open.
Performance of the Week: Iga Swiatek
The pressure on World No.1 Iga Swiatek to follow up her 2022 season, which included a 37-match win streak, eight titles and two more Grand Slam trophies, was unavoidable. With every match, she has had to face down questions comparing her current season to her previous campaign. After bowing out in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, Swiatek acknowledged the challenge of blocking out the noise.
But just as she has throughout her career, Swiatek, 21, addressed the issue by facing it head on. After a three-week training block in Warsaw, which included on-court work on her serve and off-court work on her mind, Swiatek was intense and focused from first point to last during her dominant defense of her Qatar TotalEnergies Open title.
She lost just five games across three matches, the fewest en route to a title this century.
5 - Iga Swiatek is the first player this Century to win a WTA tournament with less than 10 games dropped en route to secure the title (only five in Doha). Queen.@WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/HPVLNEvSRy— OptaAce (@OptaAce) February 18, 2023
"Every game I was really focused, and that's the thing I'm most happy about, because at the beginning of the season I felt like my mind was kind of flying away sometimes," Swiatek told reporters. "But here, the work we have put in with my coach on court and with Daria off the court, for sure, it just paid off, and I felt like everything is clicking."
One change Swiatek has embraced is ignoring the WTA Rankings and focusing on the Race to the Finals rankings instead. While the WTA Rankings calculate a player's performance over the past 52 weeks, the Race tabulates 2023 points only.
"I would say actually after Australian Open when I had time to reset a little bit, I feel like I'm still on the same spot, because I tried to look at the Race and really focus on actually competing with other players," Swiatek said. "I feel like looking at Race ranking is going to help me to look forward and not to what happened in the past."
Jessica Pegula: The American saved match points against Jelena Ostapenko along the way to making her first final of the season. She also notched her second Top 10 win of the season by beating No.7 Maria Sakkari in the semifinals. With her performance at the United Cup, run to the Australian Open quarterfinals and Doha final, Pegula has proved she's ready to build on her career-best 2022 season.
Maria Sakkari: Sakkari came up short to Pegula in their three-set semifinal matchup, but the World No.7 has now made back-to-back semifinals, having done so in Linz a week before. She also notched her first Top 5 win of the year over Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals.
Belinda Bencic: Bencic had to withdraw with fatigue ahead of her anticipated quarterfinal showdown with Swiatek, but after winning her second title of the season in Abu Dhabi, the Swiss is taking a six-match win streak into Dubai. Her gritty three-set comeback against Victoria Azarenka, a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 win in the second round, was an impressive display of fortitude.
Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff: Like Swiatek, Pegula and Gauff returned to Doha as the top seeds and successfully defended their title.
16: Service games played by Maria Sakkari against Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals. Sakkari held serve in all of them.
2: Match points saved by Jessica Pegula against Jelena Ostapenko in a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 win. Pegula came back from a 5-2 deficit in the final set.
3: Matches in Doha in which Iga Swiatek dished out a 6-0 set.
Shot of the Week
You won't see a tweener hit as flush as Zheng Qinwen's for a long time.