TENNIS WTA FINALS – Waiting for the draws to be released on Saturday, all the contenders for this year’s WTA Finals are reaching Singapore for the last push of this long season.
The field is very different from the one of 2013, so much that only three out of eight finalists confirmed their presence an year later: Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.
To be more precise, Maria Sharapova qualified for the WTA Finals of Istanbul, but did not take part due to injury, while Li Na, who played last year, qualified this year as well, but decided to retire no more than a month ago.
This year, the Road to Singapore has been as curvy as it can get, with many and unexpected shifts and changes, so that one of the slam finalists, four slam semifinalists and three two-time slam quarterfinalists did not qualify among the top eight.
However, contrary to last year, all of the eight names received a mathematical certainty of a ticket for the finals two weeks before the event.
Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki will all be trying to finish their seasons with a bang on a high, but who is the favourite?
Williams is always the one to watch. She is world number one and defending champion, but her 2014 was not as impressive as some other seasons. Her win-loss ratio is outstanding, but many physical problems withheld her from winning more, as much as she “only” captured one slam in New York, the only time she reached a slam QF in the season.
Her conditions are in doubt after the problems she showed during the Asian swing, so much that even her participation was in doubt.
Sharapova could possibly finish the year as world number one. She will need a bit of luck and the help of the American, as winning the title with Williams in the final would not be enough, but it is not impossible.
The Russian has won her first title on hardcourts since Indian Wells 2013 in Beijing and her solid year with the second title at Roland Garros put her as a strong favourite. On the fast indoor courts, she may suffer the power of other finalists, but her fighting spirit has often proved to be a stronger weapon than some groundstrokes.
Probably the biggest specialists of these conditions is Petra Kvitova. After her second slam title on the beloved grass of SW19, she lifted a season that started below par and her autumn form puts her as a big contender.
Halep has been within reach of the world number one after the amazing first half of the year. The Romanian has suffered a big loss in her form after the injury that hampered her Wimbledon semifinal. She is a fighter, but it is hard to see her back to the level it is needed to win.
Bouchard is the youngest of the players who qualified and her season has been more successful than any of her fans would hope: a slam final, two semifinals and the first WTA title. She showed to be a great fighter and her form never disappointed on the big stages.
Radwanska’s season has been quite a letdown for her standards and, the past few months, she has dropped even more and suffered many upsets.
Ivanovic and Wozniacki were the last two players to qualify, but their form in the past few months have been impressive and they could be dangerous floaters in both groups.
The Serb has underperformed during the slams, apart from the Australian Open, but she showed her improvements in many tournaments this year and has beaten both the top two seeds this year.
Wozniacki also looked as good as during her best days, when she was world number one. She qualified after a great reaction to the shocking breakup with Rory McIlroy, which led to a great second half of the season and the second slam final at Flushing Meadows. The fast indoor conditions do not suit her game, but her renewed will and fighting spirit are second to none.
In this situation of equilibrium and uncertainty, the way the two groups is drawn will definitely influence a lot the final outcome of the last big event of the women’s season. Before the draw is made, there is one last detail to be decided, Dominika Cibulkova could become the second alternate, had she won one more round in Moscow, but she lost to Ekaterina Makarova. The first spot has been already taken by Angelique Kerber, who would be playing in case of any withdrawal before or during the round robin.
Naomi Osaka Overcomes Second Set Scare To Reach Last 32 At Australian Open
Naomi Osaka is into the last 32 of the Australian Open where Amanda Anisimova awaits.
Two-time champion Naomi Osaka overcame a second set scare to defeat Madison Brengle 6-0 6-4 to reach the third round of the Australian Open.
Osaka overcame a second set scare as she produced another dominant display of power to reach the last 32 against the unconventional American.
The world number 14 is looking for her fourth grand slam title in Melbourne.
Next for Osaka is Amanda Anisimova who beat a physically compromised Belinda Bencic 6-2 7-5.
It was a lightening quick start from Osaka who took the opening set in 20 minutes.
A display of power, accuracy and pace saw Brengle struggling to gain points on her service games.
The American isn’t a player who is going to hit you off the court and her shots were way too conservative against a player like Osaka who hits the ball so cleanly from the baseline.
Brengle came close but no reward as Osaka reeled off seven games in a row to take a 6-0 1-0 lead.
However Brengle eventually settled into her rhythm and to her obvious delight was ecstatic to win her first game of the match.
This relaxation allowed her to play with complete freedom as she started to use a lot of depth, angles and topspin to disrupt Osaka’s rhythm, who’s level dropped slightly.
Brengle created nine break points which Osaka saved with aggression and precison but on the tenth one, the American eventually broke to go a break up in the second set.
The American’s smile said it all as she was now in command of the second set but that didn’t last long.
That’s as Osaka used her champion’s skills to grind the break back and then went on a run of eight consecutive points to seal victory and a spot in the third round.
After the match Osaka spoke about her return game and the prospects of facing Amanda Anisimova in the next round, “I honestly want to say I returned pretty well,” Osaka admitted in her on-court interview.
“Been really working on it in the off-season. I’m trying not to [rate my level] if I compare myself to the past I will never be satisfied. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.
“I think we’re both going to take our chances. It’s very interesting to play against the younger players because I remember being a younger player myself and having nothing to lose.”
Friday’s meeting between the two players will be the first time they have faced each other.
Aryna Sabalenka Survives Sanders Scare At Australian Open
The Belarussian was made to work hard during her opening match at Melbourne Park.
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka came back from the brink of defeat to seal her spot in the second round of the Australian Open.
The two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist struggled with her consistency throughout her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, win over wild card Storm Saunders, who is yet to win a Grand Slam main draw match in her career. At one stage Sabalenka looked to be on the verge of suffering a third consecutive Tour defeat after trailing by a set and a break to the underdog before staging an emphatic fight back. Doing so with the help of her rival who started to unravel as the match progressed.
“She played well, she’s a tough opponent and I’m happy I won today,” Sabalenka said of Sanders during her on-court interview.
Sabalenka’s roller-coaster victory is best illustrated by the match statistics. Dealing with inconsistencies in her serve, she produced a total of 12 double faults and won 43% of her second service points. Furthermore, she hit a total of 29 winners against 37 unforced errors en route to the victory.
Playing a top 10 player for only the second time in her career, 27-year-old Sanders started the match in clinical fashion as she produced a level of tennis which exceeded that of her current ranking. Three consecutive times she managed to dismantle the Sabalenka serve to open up a swift 4-1 lead. However, the second seed briefly managed to find her footing in the match to claw her way back and level the set at 5-5. Not to be disheartened, Sanders continued pressing her opponent who faltered at the worst possible moment. Granting the underdog another break before she closed out the set.
On the verge of suffering an upset, Sabalenka’s woes continued in the second set when she got broken once again three games in. Trailing 5-7, 1-3, she managed to turn her fortunes around with the help of a six-game winning streak. Exposing the inexperienced her opponent has of playing on the biggest stages of the game. Serving to level up, she triumphed on her third set point with the help of a serve down the center of the court which Sanders returned out.
Into her stride, Sabalenka charged towards the finish line by winning a further four games in the decider before Sanders managed to register another game of her own. Serving for the win, a blistering serve down the center of the court secured the victory.
“I was already (mentally) in the locker room. Maybe that was the key because I stopped thinking too much and started playing tennis. I tried to put the ball (on the court) as much as I could and I think I did it well. That’s why I came back (in the match),” Sabalenka commented on how she turned the match around.
“Now I will recover and then tomorrow I will speak with my team about my next opponent.”
Sabalenka will play China’s Wang Xinyu in the next round. She could claim the world No.1 ranking in Melbourne if one of two scenarios occur over the coming days. She reaches the final and Ash Barty loses before the quarter-finals or Barty reaches the Quarter-finals and Sabalenka goes on to win the title.
Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open
The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.
The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.
“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”
On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.
Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.
“It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”
Swiatek and her new coach
Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.
“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.
“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”
Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.
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