Iga Swiatek’s rise to the top of women’s tennis has been remarkable and her dominance of the sport shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The 22-year-old Pole will finish 2023 as the world number one for the second consecutive season after securing her sixth title of the campaign and 17th overall by winning the WTA Finals for the first time in her young career. A convincing 6-1, 6-0 victory over fifth seed Jessica Pegula affirmed her status at the top of the sport with a 68-11 record to round out the year but also ensured this would be her 77th week as world number one, a tally that puts her in tenth on the all-time list with still so much of her career ahead of her. Her ascension to the top has set the sport alight and has rightfully drawn many comparisons to greats of the past. But where does she sit on the list of the best to ever do it? And is she on course to become the greatest of all-time?
The Warsaw native seemed destined for greatness from the early stages of her career, picking up her first title at the 2020 French Open, dropping only 28 games with seven straight-set wins on her way to claiming the Suzanne-Lenglen cup. Her victory was as dominant as it was unexpected with only one opponent managing to avoid a 6-1 defeat in a set to the then number 54 in the world over the course of the tournament. In the process she became Poland’s first ever Grand Slam champion and has since gone on to claim three more major wins; at the 2022 French Open, the 2022 US Open and the 2023 French Open. She continued in the same vein notching a 37-match winning streak in 2022 that secured her six consecutive titles. Those performances assured her status as the world number one in April of the same year. She is undoubtedly one of the most talented players of this generation but her credentials to become one of the best women’s tennis players of all-time is even more evident when you begin comparing her stats with that of the all-time greats.
Only three women have held the world number one ranking for more consecutive weeks than Swiatek in their first stint as world number one; those three are Stefanie Graf who held it for 186 weeks, Martina Hingis who held it for 80 and Serena Williams who held it for 57, not bad company that. Even more impressive perhaps is that she has become the first woman to have won more than 36 consecutive matches in the 2000s. Swiatek’s record-breaking run matched Hingis’ 37 consecutive wins in 1997 and the last player to string together more than 37 wins was Graf from 1989 to 1990 who won 66 consecutive encounters. The young Pole finished the 2022 season at number one after amassing 11,085 points, a massive 6,000 points ahead of world number two Ons Jabeur. The only player to have ever accumulated a larger year-end ranking points tally is who earned just over 13,000 in 2013. That’s not to take away from Swiatek’s accomplishment, in fact, only four players in history have ever managed to go beyond the 10,000 point mark, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova being the other two to do so in 2012. The stats exemplifying her amazing talents simply go on and on. Online betting sites will always have odds on her to win the next tournament and she’s more often than not the favourite.
With the current players in the top WTA rankings you’d have to say Iga Swaitek is easily the best of the bunch. That’s not to discredit other players like Sabalenka, Pegula, Gauff etc. But you have to appreciate how diverse Iga can be. When it comes to clay court she’s incredible, the hard-court seems to be no issue and we’ll get into her grass performances later on. At just 22-years old she has a lot of maturity about her on the court and 2024 could be a huge year for her. It says a lot when it comes as a shock to see her not win a Grand Slam and heading into next year, many are expecting her to at the very least pick up one.
As we previously mentioned, the only chink in the armour is perhaps her performance on grass. Given her incredible showings since bursting onto the scene in 2020 many had suspected her to impress at the All-England club but that has yet to manifest itself. The Pole ended her challenge in 2021 in the fourth round, went home a stage earlier in 2022 and managed to reach the quarter-finals this year but ultimately fell short against Elina Svitolina. Few can doubt her prowess on clay (she’s been nearly unbeatable on that surface to date), but the English Grand Slam has made many a career and left others wanting and it is an arena Swiatek is going to have to conquer if she is ever to lay claim to the moniker of greatest of all-time. Bookmakers still have her as one of the favourites to win Wimbledon which shows that people definitely believe she can overcome this elusive Wimbledon title. The good news for her is that she is in the form of her life and already has experience of overcoming adversity. After such a spectacular 2022 season she was under immense pressure to replicate that level of performance, even more so having lost her world number one ranking following a fourth round defeat at US Open. But she has made a remarkable recovery at the WTA Finals in Cancun, having dropped just 20 games in her five matches to beat Serena Williams’ previous record of 32 games dropped in 2012. She still has some way to go as world number one to catch up with Graf’s gargantuan tally of 377 weeks atop the tennis world. However, she has all the potential in the world to become the sport’s newest sensation and establish an era of dominance that could put her front and centre in the conversation for the best players of all-time.