Iga Swiatek claims her fifth title of the year after winning the Beijing Masters. But with the tour finals in Cancun right around the corner, who else has qualified for the year end show piece?
It has been an up and down year for the four-time Major champion Iga Swiatek.
Despite winning her third French Open title, and three other WTA tournaments, the long-time world number one lost her spot at the top of the tree to Aryna Sabalenka after the Belarusian made the US Open Final.
While she won a third title at Roland Garros, Swiatek’s other Grand Slam performances had been rather underwhelming in 2023, making just the 4th round of both the Australian and US Open, and the quarter finals of Wimbledon.
The loss of points from failing to defend her title at Flushing meadows was enough for her to lose her spot as world number one to Sabalenka, who had made at least the semi-finals of every grand slam in 2023.
Some might think that losing the world number one spot would break a player’s spirit, especially when they have held the crown for so long, but for Swiatek it seems to have reinvigorated her.
The Pole seems to be playing with more freedom, like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders, and she carried this freedom into the WTA 1000 event in Beijing, where she stormed through a number of top opponents to win her 5th title this year and the 16th of her career.
Swiatek made light work of a number of high ranked opposition, including the 2023 US Open champion Coco Gauff in the semi-finals, beating her 6-2, 6-3.
Liudmila Samsonova awaited in the final, but despite raking up impressive victories over Ostapenko and Rybakina in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, Samsonova was no match for an inspired Swiatek playing with all the freedom in the world.
Samsonova didn’t manage a single break point as she succumbed 6-2, 6-2. It was a stunning performance from Swiatek whose attention will now turn towards capturing her first tour finals title in Cancun later this month.
Victory in Beijing made Swiatek the first player since Serena Williams to win five of more titles in back-to-back WTA seasons, which puts a serious asterisk next to her supposedly underwhelming season.
It promises to be an exciting showdown in Cancun for the spot as year end number one between Swiatek and Sabalenka, with both players desperate to win the year’s ‘fifth major’.
Swiatek and Sabalenka will be joined by Coco Gauff, Elena Rybakina, Jessica Pegula, Marketa Vondrousova, Karolina Muchova and Ons Jabeur in Cancun.
This means that despite her recent upturn in form, Greece’s Maria Sakkari will narrowly miss out, as well as the 2022 champion Caroline Garcia, who has spent most of the season in the top eight.
Swiatek may well be the favourite for the tour finals following her performance in Beijing, but this will be one of the highest levels seen at a WTA year end final.
Seven of the eight players have reached at least a Grand Slam final this year, with five of them being Grand Slam champions. The quality is extraordinary and it promises to be an exceptional end to the WTA season.