|Dates: January 16-29 Event location: Melbourne Park|
|Reception: Daily radio commentary on the 5 Sports Extra/BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentary and match coverage on the website and app|
How do you sum up one of the most successful and dominant WTA Tour seasons in recent history?
Iga Świątek plans to cut herself off from external noise and the increased attention that comes with being number one in the world and a woman to beat.
Or, as the 21-year-old from Poland put it more bluntly a recent article for The Players’ Tribune, remind yourself not to “worry” about the opinions of others.
“When I don’t care what people think and what they expect of me, it’s easier for me to succeed,” Swiatek told BBC Sport in Melbourne, where the top player is preparing for next week’s Australian Open.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do best in 2022.
“While I’m proud of them, I’m not going to match what I’ve achieved so far because that would not be constructive.
“A season like this is something amazing and rare. Sure, I’d love to do it again, but living in the past isn’t beneficial.”
Last season kicked off with Świątek still doubting she could consistently fight at the top and aspiring to the level of then world number one Ashleigh Barty.
Świątek ended the year with two Grand Slam titles – the French Open and the US Open – and a firm grip at the top of the rankings.
Reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne laid the foundation for even bigger things, and when Barty unexpectedly announced her retirement in March, just over a month after winning the Australian Open title, Swiatek was already emerging as a leading force on the WTA Tour.
With the Doha and Indian Wells titles in the bag, Świątek won her next four tournaments – Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and Roland Garros – in 37 straight games.
The run, which ended on her least favorite grass at Wimbledon, is the longest winning streak on the road since 1990.
But success on the court requires more attention.
As someone who describes herself as an introvert, Świątek says it feels “strange and confusing” to be recognized on the street by seeing her face on a digital billboard in New York during the US Open it was also an experience that seemed detached from reality.
“I appreciate being recognized and I’ve found that people are nice to me,” she said.
“Fortunately, I can’t think of any weird or difficult situations with the fans. Of course, there is hate on the Internet, but rude comments after losing a match happen to almost every athlete these days.
“I don’t read these comments or messages. That’s pretty much the only downside so far.
“Right now, I just cherish every moment that I can be free and be fully myself. I think we all need that space.”
Last year, Świątek began working with management company IMG – the agency that looks after British star Emma Raducanu and also represented former world star Maria Sharapova – to help her manage her tour schedule and negotiate commercial deals.
The core of the tennis team that helped her succeed last year – psychologist Daria Abramowicz, coach Tomasz Wiktorowski and physiotherapist Maciej Ryszczuk – remains in place.
“My team is always thinking about my health, well-being and balancing my training schedule and responsibilities off the pitch,” Swiatek said.
“They really work to create schedules that aren’t too intense for me – they limit my non-mandatory activities to make sure I don’t feel exhausted or exhausted.
“If I were to be involved in everything that is offered to me, I would be tired all the time.
“For me, it’s important to keep a balance while focusing on sports performance. That’s my guiding principle.”