BEIJING -- World No.2 Iga Swiatek capped off a perfect tournament debut at the China Open after defeating No.22 Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-2 in Sunday's final to win her tour-leading fifth title of the season.
With the win, Swiatek becomes the first player since Serena Williams to win five or more titles in back-to-back seasons, with the American doing so in 2014 and 2015.
"I'm happy that I won because, for sure, this is really big for me," Swiatek said. "Winning this title is something that I never would have thought at the beginning of the tournament about. I'm pretty proud of myself."
Beijing is Swiatek's 16th career title, joining her 2023 title hauls at Roland Garros, Doha, Stuttgart and Warsaw. She lost just one set in the tournament. It is also her sixth WTA 1000 title, making her the only player to win six or more WTA 1000 titles before the age of 23, eclipsing Caroline Wozniacki’s five.
Playing in her seventh final of the season on Sunday, Swiatek moved her head-to-head record to 3-0 over Samsonova. Earlier this season, Swiatek dropped just one game to Samsonova on the hard courts of Dubai.
Samsonova booked a spot in her second WTA 1000 final of the season by notching her third Top 10 win of the year over No.5 Elena Rybakina in the semifinals. Her Beijing run will ensure a return to the Top 20 on Monday. But her efforts throughout the week, including wins over Jelena Ostapenko, Petra Kvitova and Marta Kostyuk, had left the 24-year-old short on energy.
How the match was won: On a cool night in Beijing, Swiatek took advantage of the slower conditions to neutralize Samsonova's power. After an exchange of five holds to open the match, Samsonova double-faulted on her first break point of the match to give Swiatek the lead. Swiatek responded by continuing to shrink the court on Samsonova, hitting zero unforced errors in the opening set and breaking again to seal the lead.
Coming off a near-perfect semifinal performance against US Open champion Coco Gauff, where Swiatek did not face a single break point, her serve again proved dominant. She did not face a break point against Samsonova and locked down her game from the baseline by playing measured, aggressive tennis. After breaking Samsonova for a 3-1 lead in the second set, Swiatek earned a key hold in a 30-all game to extend her lead to 4-1.
Swiatek closed out the win from there, earning her first match point with a perfect forehand passing shot and sealing the 69-minute win after Samsonova put a drop shot into the net.
What a week. Thank you TEAM 🏼 pic.twitter.com/0xglybDFQt— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 8, 2023
"Well, for sure you could feel that we are playing a final because it was a little bit tense, I would say," Swiatek said. "But I'm happy that I kind of adjusted to what Liudmila was playing. I wanted to really be consistent with what I wanted to do no matter how she's doing."
Stat of the match: Swiatek finished the match without tallying a single unforced error.
"I think this is what she's doing the best because this is the stress that she made to other players, that she doesn't make unforced errors," Samsonova said. "Every time you need to do something more. It's not real what you feel, but she makes you feel like this. This is what I learned today."
Swiatek tightens the Race for year-end No.1: The year-end No.1 will be decided at the WTA Finals in Cancun. Swiatek came into the tournament trailing No.1 Aryna Sabalenka by 1,305 points on the Race to the WTA Finals leaderboard. With the win on Sunday, Swiatek cut Sabalenka's lead down to 630 points, with 1,500 points up for grabs in Cancun.