Editor's note: This week, we looked at the road each of the eight singles players and eight doubles teams took to qualify for this year's GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun in Mexico.
Season at a glance
Aryna Sabalenka ended 2022 with a runner-up performance at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, the highest-level final of her career up to that point. She entered this season with an eye on even more milestones.
Twelve months later, it is safe to say that many of those markers have been hit by the new World No.1.
Sabalenka started this season on fire, becoming the immediate in-form player in the Race to the WTA Finals. She won her first 13 matches and entered April with a 20-3 win-loss record.
Included in that spectacular run was the first of her big milestones this year -- a long-awaited first Grand Slam final and title at the Australian Open. It was major vindication for Sabalenka, who had previously gone 0-3 in Grand Slam semifinals.
Wooow guys...what just happened? I have a fear that this was all a dream and l'm about to wake up. It's all still sinking in, but I could not be happier in this moment.— Sabalenka Aryna (@SabalenkaA) January 29, 2023
Thank you so much for all the support during this few weeks,I really appreciate it.. pic.twitter.com/vwyxezbLw8
“I think it's even more enjoyable, I would say, after all those tough matches,” Sabalenka told the press after winning her first major title. “I really feel right now that I really needed those tough losses to kind of understand myself a little bit better. It was like a preparation for me.
“I actually feel happy that I lost those matches, so right now I can be a different player and just different Aryna, you know?”
- Won her first Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, in her first Grand Slam final appearance
- Reached World No.1 in singles for the first time on Sept. 11 and has held the top spot since
- Notched her fifth career WTA 1000 title, in Madrid and also reached the WTA 1000 final at Indian Wells
- Captured a total of three titles and made three additional finals this year
- First woman to reach the semifinals or better at all four Grand Slam events in a calendar year since Serena Williams in 2016
This “different Aryna” maintained exceptional consistency throughout the rest of the season. Sabalenka reached the quarterfinals or better at 12 of the 15 events she played, winning three titles and reaching three more finals during the year.
Specifically, it was consistency at the Grand Slam events where Sabalenka edged ahead of the rest of the field. Along with her Australian Open title, she reached her second Grand Slam final at the US Open and posted semifinal results at the other two majors, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She went 23-3 at the Slams this year.
The run to the US Open final led to another milestone for Sabalenka -- by virtue of her performance in New York, she claimed the World No.1 ranking for the first time in her career.
Despite hitting new peaks all year long, Sabalenka feels she has more work to do, as she aims to clinch the year-end World No.1 ranking in Cancun. She currently has a 630-point lead over Iga Swiatek in the final push to year-end No.1.
"Becoming a World No.1, it's a huge improvement, and achievement," Sabalenka said after the US Open final. "I'm really proud of myself that all those years I have been working so hard helped me to become World No.1.
"It's good so that I can say I have been World No.1, but I really would like to finish the year as World No.1. That's why I'm still positive, and I'm still motivated."