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Navratilova: For Swiatek, WTA Finals would be "exclamation point on an amazing year"
“It's anybody's ballgame still—but for number two,” says Navratilova, who spent 332 weeks as WTA No. 1, highlighting the Pole’s consistent dominance over the women’s tour.
Published Oct 22, 2022
FLASHBACK: Tennis Channel Live discusses Iga Swiatek winning the 2022 US Open
In a year full of dramatic headlines and major tennis news, Martina Navratilova’s standout WTA moment of the season has been the rise and reign of Iga Swiatek as the undisputed world No. 1.
Speaking by phone with Tennis.com’s Baseline, the WTA legend and former world No. 1 highlighted the Pole’s consistency and poise atop the rankings during a dominant 2022—especially during Swiatek’s 37 consecutive victories during the first half of the year.
“That streak was the biggest streak in a long time on the women's tour,” Navratilova said.
Swiatek’s dominance has been one of the few constant factors in a WTA season in flux. This year alone has seen big-name retirements in the form of Serena Williams and Ashleigh Barty, as well as the rise of first-time Grand Slam winners like Elena Rybakina, reemergence of challengers like Caroline Garcia and the coming of age of Coco Gauff.
But as Fort Worth approaches in less than two weeks, Navratilova is tipping heavy favorite Swiatek to continue her serene rule over women’s tennis and lift her first WTA Finals trophy.
“Iga just really dominated the tour this year, and deserves to be number one,” said the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion. “I don't think anybody can catch her. Actually it’s way too late now.
“I think for Iga, winning [WTA Finals] would be an opportunity to put an exclamation point on an amazing year.
“For all the other ones, it may be a chance to salvage a year that wasn't as good as it could have been.”
When then-world No. 1 Barty announced her retirement just a few weeks after winning the 2022 Australian Open title—removing her name from the WTA rankings in the process—longtime tennis watchers had flashbacks of when a similar situation unfolded during the chaotic 2008 season.
Back then, it was Justine Henin who (briefly) hung up her racquets and retired her name from the rankings after spending 61 weeks at the top. As players rushed to capitalize on the opportunity to fill the vacuum, the WTA No. 1 ranking would go on to change hands six times before the end of the year, ushering in a ‘revolving door’ era on the women’s tour.
By contrast, since assuming the top ranking as a result of Barty’s retirement, Swiatek has spent most of her time consolidating her claim on the No. 1 spot. She has gone 64-8 on the season, including 8-1 in finals during a stretch that has also seen her lift two Grand Slam trophies at Roland Garros and US Open.
With 29 weeks in a row on top, Swiatek’s steady reign has already eclipsed the likes of Naomi Osaka (24), Maria Sharapova (21) and Dinara Safina (26).
But can the top-ranked Pole continue to dominate the WTA Tour—and fight off new challengers—in years to come? Navratilova, who herself spent 332 weeks at world No. 1, including 156 consecutive weeks, says the jury is still out.
“That's way too soon to tell because, I think there’s so much that can still happen,” Navratilova said. “Looking at the rankings, she has over twice as many points than anybody else. So it's a massive gap.
“Caroline Garcia is kind of nipping at their heels [in the Race] too… Coco Gauff is on her way.
“But Iga has been the most consistent, as well as winning. Not just consistent, but consistently winning titles.”
Swiatek recently added the inaugural 500-level San Diego surfboard to her impressive 2022 trophy cabinet, her eighth title of the year. Along the way, she has reinforced herself as the pre-tournament favorite heading into the WTA’s season ending event—which also features Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Caroline Garcia as qualified players.
The world No. 1 will be going for her ninth trophy of the season, and her fifth on US soil after winning Indian Wells, Miami, US Open and San Diego. And for Navratilova, it’s figures and milestones like these—and the way Swiatek deals with the pressure and expectations associated with them—that currently set her apart from her WTA peers.
“We'll see who gets to Fort Worth, but it should be very competitive. And I love the round robin format because you can lose and still win the tournament,” Navratilova added. “So it will probably take the pressure off in a way.
“It's anybody's ballgame still—but for number two. The number one has been wrapped up nicely.”