WTA Finals champion Iga Swiatek said the poor playing conditions in Cancun forced her to focus on her game instead of being distracted by the prospect of regaining the world number one ranking.
The four-time Grand Slam champion swept aside Jessica Pegula 6-1 6-0 to claim her first WTA Finals title, and return to the top of the rankings after being deposed by Aryna Sabalenka in September.
The WTA conceded this year’s edition of the Finals was “not a perfect event”, with the court condition and stormy weather among the issues affecting players. Sabalenka said she did not feel safe playing on the court.
“The conditions that were kind of tricky also helped me to just, you know, focus on adjust my footwork, my shots … that kept me busy from thinking about all of that,” Swiatek told reporters of the number one ranking on Monday.
“So I think today was … just being narrow with your head, only thinking about the right stuff.”
The 22-year-old Pole said she had been distracted by the ranking race at other tournaments and it had affected her performance.
“It played (in my mind) a lot in the US Open and the tournaments before but I kind of learned my lesson,” she said.
“This time I didn’t want it to have an impact on me … it’s hard not to think about stuff like that but actually when I went on court I knew that I had to focus on different things.”
Cancun was named as venue for the $9 million WTA Finals, which brings together the top eight singles players and doubles partnerships to conclude the season, less than two months before it started on October 29.
The tournament was supposed to conclude on November 5 but rain and high winds meant the semifinal between Swiatek and Sabalenka was not completed until that day, with the final shunted to Monday.
On Monday, Swiatek broke Pegula five times and won the final 11 games in a 59-minute slaughter to capture her first WTA Finals title.
“I want to thank my team who have been with me for the whole season,” Swiatek said during the trophy ceremony.
“We’ve had many ups and downs but this is for sure an up, and we’ll have many more if we keep working like that.”
She also thanked the fans that endured countless rain delays and gusting winds over the course of the event at the coastal Mexican resort town.
“Thank you guys for coming and cheering for us, you really made it special,” she said.
“Thank you for all these Polish flags and Polish people who are coming to every tournament and those from many countries. Every year I feel like I have more and more support.”
Swiatek came into the tournament red hot having won last month’s China Open and never dropped a set over the course of her five matches at the event, which brings together the top eight players in the world.
Swiatek ends the season on an 11-match winning streak and will finish the year in the top spot for the second year in a row.
Swiatek, 22, collected six out of her total 17 career titles this season. She retained the French Open crown in June to lift her fourth Grand Slam trophy.
The 29-year-old Pegula, who struggled on her serve and failed to match Swiatek’s energy level, was gracious in defeat.
“Congrats on ending the year number one and winning this tournament, it’s really incredible” she said.
“You continue to push me to be a better player and I appreciate that aspect of it. I wish I could have done better today but that’s not how it goes sometimes.”