Last season started with Iga Swiatek still doubting whether she could consistently challenge at the very top and aspiring to reach the level of then-world number one Ashleigh Barty.
Swiatek ended the year with two Grand Slam titles – the French Open and US Open – and a tight grip on the top ranking.
Reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne laid the platform for even greater things and when Barty surprisingly announced her retirement in March, little over a month after winning the Australian Open title, Swiatek was already emerging as the leading force on the WTA Tour.
Looking ahead of the Australian Open 2023, Iga Swiatek plans to block out the outside noise and increased attention which comes with being the world number one and the woman to beat.
The 21-year-old from Poland reminds herself not to “worry” about the opinions of others.
“When I don’t care about what people think and what their expectations of me are, it’s easier for me to succeed,” Swiatek told BBC Sport in Melbourne, where the top seed is preparing for next week’s Australian Open.
“That was what I tried my best to do in 2022.
“Although I’m proud of them, I’m not going to try to match my previous achievements because it would not be constructive.
“A season like that is something amazing and rare. Sure, I would love to do it again but it’s not advantageous to live in the past,” she said.
As someone who describes herself as an introvert, Swiatek says it feels “strange and disorienting” to be recognised on the street, while seeing her face on a digital billboard in New York during the US Open was also an experience which seemed detached from reality.
“I do appreciate being recognised and I’ve found that people are kind to me,” Swiatek said.
“Luckily, I can’t think of any weird or difficult situations with fans. Of course, there is some hate on the internet, but the rude comments after losing a match happens to nearly every athlete these days.
“I don’t read these comments or messages. That’s basically the only downside for now.
“Right now, I am just cherishing every moment where I can be free and be fully myself. I think we all need that space,” she said.
In the past year Swiatek started working with management company IMG – the agency which looks after British star Emma Raducanu and also represented former world number one Maria Sharapova – to help manage her schedule on the tour and negotiate commercial deals.
“My team is always thinking about my health, my well-being and balancing my schedule of training and off-the-court obligations,” said Swiatek.
“They really work to create plans that are not too intense for me – they limit my non-obligatory activities to make sure I’m not feeling drained or worn down.
“If I were to be involved in everything I’m offered, I would be tired all the time.
“For me, it’s important to maintain balance while focusing on my sports performance. That’s my main rule,” she said.