BEIJING -- Iga Swiatek once said that it's not a week if she's not crying. Sure enough, when Liudmila Samsonova's final errant shot landed at the China Open on Sunday, Swiatek's tears started to flow. Thankfully for Swiatek, they were happy, cathartic moments of elation.
They revealed just how much she doubted herself at the start of the week. Losing the No.1 ranking with her Round of 16 exit to Jelena Ostapenko at the US Open had weighed more heavily on Swiatek than she had led on.
"I would say the overall state that I kind of had for a couple of weeks," Swiatek said. "I feel like this tournament will give me confidence for the rest of my career that there's always a chance to overcome and work on what you do or what you feel. You can always get better. Sometimes it's pretty easy, but we tend to make it more complicated in our heads.
"I'm really happy that I just focused on hard work. It paid off -- maybe not instantly -- but I'm happy that after US Open I just got back to basics and just worked really hard tennis-wise. I'll just continue to do that."
Throughout the week in Beijing, Swiatek spoke about needing some time to regroup. She had, after all, been unexpectedly thrust into the World No.1 after Ashleigh Barty's sudden retirement last April. Given her 75-week reign of domination at the top of the game -- the third-longest debut streak at No.1 in WTA history -- it's easy to dismiss the degree of difficulty of what she ultimately accomplished.
During her reign, she picked up three Grand Slam titles, engineered a historic 37-match win streak, and single-handedly forced the rest of the tour to hit the practice courts. Collectively, they have elevated the modern game.
"It was just kind of hard for me to not think about all this stuff that sometimes is messing with my head a little bit," Swiatek said. "But it really clicked here in Beijing.
"It wasn't easy before the first match. I felt really anxious. I felt like usually, after feeling down, I tend to bounce back. This was something that I was kind of expecting to do. It put even a little bit more pressure on myself."
Swiatek made it look easy in Beijing. To capture her 16th career title and tour-leading fifth of the year, Swiatek lost just one set. In the semifinals, she ended US Open champion Coco Gauff's 16-match win streak, avenging a tough loss from Cincinnati. Her serve was a revelation. She did not face a break point in the last five sets she played in Beijing.
In the final, she hit zero unforced errors. The win was her 63rd of the season, the most on tour.
"For sure, here in Beijing it just worked," Swiatek said. "Every day I was able to keep this attitude. I think I really just enjoyed playing here on this surface and on these stadiums. Everything kind of worked.
"Sometimes I feel like that at Roland Garros, that I really know this place, that everything is really nice and comfortable. Here I'm for the first time, but I also felt that. I just enjoyed my team here in Beijing, and that also had some influence."
💪🏼Keep going. Keep grinding. It never get easier, you just get better.— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) October 8, 2023
💪🏼Rób dalej swoje, pracuj. Nic nie staje się prostsze, to ty stajesz się lepsza/-y.#thankyouteam #whataweek pic.twitter.com/5IOFBQoyHA
Swiatek will have little time to celebrate her win. Her coach, Tomasz Witkorwksi will have her back on the practice court to ready for her final tournament of the season at the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, where she will have the opportunity to retake the No.1 ranking.
"Today is about a celebration," Swiatek said. "But he told me when I'm going to be back at work. Yeah, it's not a long time for me to have rest at this point 'cause, for sure, Cancun is really important tournament. I want to get ready and also kind of continue the work I've been doing after US Open in terms of technique and what I want to improve on court."
"I would say if I would become World No. 1 again, for sure I think I would be kind of more prepared for everything. It's not like I would change some things exactly, but I would know how to deal with them at this point.
"I think if I learn and take lessons from it, it's going to be easier. But for sure the first thing is getting there. I'll just try to do that. For now, step by step. I'll just celebrate this trophy."