A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 1 (Serve and Forehand) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 1 (Serve and Forehand)



TENNIS WTA SHOT GUIDE – It is offseason time, so Ubitennis is having a look at the past year and rating the WTA players for their abilities in each of the fundamentals of tennis.


Season is officially over now. Fed Cup has been won, the Finals have given their verdict and the ranking has finally been decided.

Yes, 2014 is over for tennis fans, but in a little more than a month, the next season will start and, as usual, every player will be immediately tested for all the hard work they will have put in these weeks away from international competitions.

But before this will happen, we thought it would be interesting to redact a guide to the best ground strokes and fundamentals that shone during the past season, as to set a standard for the next one and check who will improve or decline in each section.

  • Serve

Service must come first in this analysis. Not only it is the first shot in every rally, but it can make a great difference on crucial points. In women’s tennis, it has often served a minor role, but more players are exploiting a bigger serve. However, in this ranking, not only the number of aces has been taken into account, but also the general value of the serve: variety, effectiveness, speed and reliability.


1) Serena Williams: she hit the most aces on tour, when in trouble, she can count on cheap points from her serve and she has many solutions from the heavy flat ball, to an accurate slice.

2) Karolina Pliskova: the Czech player has one of the most interesting serves on tour. She can hit with lots of power without losing in placement, but she can also use a great kick on both first and second serve, as well as a tricky slice.

Petra Kvitova by Art Seitz

Petra Kvitova by Art Seitz

3) Petra Kvitova: two girls from the same country are in the top three, Kvitova’s serve comes as second because, depending on her fitness, it can turn into a disaster movie, even though it often is her lifeline. It is no surprise this was the biggest weapon that took her to the second Wimbledon title.

4) Sam Stosur: yes, the Australian has been playing well under her standards during the year, but that does not take anything away from her serve. Her kick remains the best on women’s game.

5) Sabine Lisicki/Coco Vandeweghe: two players with a similar situation, great technique, amazing power and the ability of hitting as many aces as they wish in a single match. For both, however, a rather unstable mentality can make all the good job done with the serve go wasted.

  • Forehand

In many commentary boxes, there seems to be an ongoing idea that in the game of tennis forehands are the best shots of men, backhands of women. Well the five, and many more, names which follow clearly do not agree.


1) Serena Williams: when she is on a bad day, this is the only attackable side of the world number one, but on any other day, you do not want to start a cross court battle with her on this side. In the past few years, she also added some spin when in defence, which made it a thoroughly solid shot.

2) Ana Ivanovic: the blasting flat shots of the former world number one have finally reacquired strength and consistency. After years of anonymity, she shook the dust off and is back hitting the most incredible forehands of the tour.

3) Petra Kvitova: second third placement for the Czech. Her forehand is devastating, especially when she can hit without big movements. Cross court, down-the-line, from the middle, it makes no difference, when she is on, it is hard to stop any of these.

Samantha Stosur - Internazionali d'Italia 2014 - Roma (by Monique Filippella)

Samantha Stosur – Internazionali d’Italia 2014 – Roma (by Monique Filippella)

4) Sam Stosur: the Australian’s game revolves around this particular shot. Her serve-forehand combination is one of the deadliest of recent years, but contrary to the names above, her shot is not a big flat stroke. Her topspin is tricky to deal with, but at the same time, the ball travel as fast as a flat hit.

5) Lucie Safarova: another lefty in the ranking. For years, she has been underperforming when it most counted, making it hard to believe she would live up her potential. A semifinal at Wimbledon was a big change, something that could not have happened without this particular shot.

To be continued next week, who will be the best 5 on the backhand side?


Roland Garros Daily Preview: Djokovic, Alcaraz, Wawrinka, Thiem Play on Monday



Court Suzanne-Lenglen has a new look in 2023, as it’s been fitted for a roof starting next year (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Day 2 in Paris is the second of three days featuring first round singles action.


Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will make their 2023 Roland Garros debuts on Monday, with both being heavy favorites in their opening rounds.  So this preview will dive deeper into the first round matches of two other Major singles champions: Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, both of whom are fighting to regain their form of yesteryear.

Two of the day’s other most appetizing matchups include two Italians with previous success at this tournament.  Fabio Fognini will look to upset a top 10 seed when he takes on a struggling Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Martina Trevisan plays a resurgent mother in Elina Svitolina.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (10) vs. Fabio Fognini – Second on Court Simonne-Mathieu

Auger-Aliassime is a meager 13-9 this season, and just 1-2 on clay.  Felix has not been fully healthy, as only a few days ago, he withdrew from Lyon due to a shoulder injury.  A year ago at this event, he pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets, while being coached by Uncle Toni.  But in this match, FAA is on upset alert, against a former Roland Garros quarterfinalist.

That result for Fognini occurred 12 years ago in Paris.  The biggest title of Fabio’s career also came on this surface, when he won Monte Carlo in 2019.  The 36-year-old Italian is only 4-9 on the year, though two of those victories took place recently on clay in Rome, when he defeated both Andy Murray and Miomir Kecmanovic.

Their only prior encounter also occurred and clay, which was four years ago in Rio.  Felix prevailed in straight sets on that day.  But on this day, the unpredictable Fabio may be a slight favorite to eliminate the tenth seed in the opening round.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Second on Court 14

Wawrinka’s French Open title run took place eight years ago.  Stan reached the quarterfinals or better at this tournament in five of the last 10 years.  But injuries have derailed the 38-year-old’s career in recent years, and he’s just 12-10 this season at tour level.

35-year-old Ramos-Vinolas was a quarterfinalist in Paris seven years ago.  His only Masters 1000 final also came on this surface, six years ago in Monte Carlo.  A year ago here, he gave Carlos Alcaraz a scare, going up two-sets-to-one before losing in five.  But in 2023, Albert is just 6-16 at tour level.

Wawrinka has dominated their history 7-0, but they haven’t played since they met in the quarters of this tournament in 2016.  Can Stan recapture some of the magic he’s displayed in the past at this event?  On Monday, he’s the favorite to advance against a tough clay court opponent.

Elina Svitolina vs. Martina Trevisan (26) – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu

On Saturday, in just her third WTA tournament since becoming a mother for the first time, Svitolina became the champion in Strasbourg.  Elina is 22-9 at Roland Garros, having reached the quarterfinals three times. 

Trevisan equaled that result back in 2020, then she surpassed it a year ago, reaching the semifinals of this event.  Yet in 2023, Martina is only 11-13 overall, and 4-4 on clay.

In their first career meeting, Trevisan should be favored.  This will be a quick turnaround for Svitolina from Strasbourg, and she is not yet re-accustomed to playing so many matches within a short time span.

Dominic Thiem vs. Pedro Cachin – Third on Court 6

Between 2016 and 2020, Thiem reached two finals, two more semifinals, and another quarterfinal in Paris.  But since a serious wrist injury sidelined him in 2021, Dominic is 0-2 at this event.  The Austrian is 11-15 this season at all levels, and is coming off two Challenger events on clay earlier this month.

Cachin is a 28-year-old from Argentina who reached the final of a Challenger event on clay in April, before advancing to the round of 16 at the Madrid Masters thanks to impressive victories over Francisco Cerundolo and Frances Tiafoe.  Pedro advanced to the second round of this event in his French Open main draw debut a year ago.

They have never played at tour level, but they did meet at a Challenger tournament last year on clay, with Cachin prevailing in straight sets.  However, it’s worth noting that was Thiem’s first event in nearly a year after returning from injury.  On Monday, I expect the two-time finalist to rediscover enough of his form to prevail.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Karolina Pliskova (16) vs. Sloane Stephens – This is a matchup between two players who have each achieved two Major finals, with Stephens winning the 2017 US Open, yet neither arrives in Paris with much form.  Pliskova got off to a strong start on the year, but is just 2-2 on clay, and has been dealing with a knee injury.  Sloane is 9-11 at tour level, though she is coming off a semifinal run this past week in Rabat.  Stephens leads their head-to-head 4-1, which includes a straight-set win at this event in 2021.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Aleksandar Kovacevic – Djokovic is a two-time champion of this tournament, and is 85-16 here lifetime.  He’s reached at least the quarterfinals for 13 straight years, though he’s been battling an elbow injury, and is just 5-3 on clay this season.  Kovacevic is a 24-year-old American who has never been ranked inside the top 100.

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Flavio Cobolli (Q) – Alcaraz is an excellent 30-3 this year, and won back-to-back titles on clay in his home country before suffering a shocking loss to qualifier Fabian Marozsan in Rome.  This will be Carlitos’ first match at a Major since winning last year’s US Open, as he missed the Australian due to injury.  Cobolli is a 21-year-old Italian qualifier making his main draw debut at a Slam.

Arthur Fils (WC) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Fils is an 18-year-old French standout who on Saturday won his first ATP title in his home country, defeating Francisco Cerundolo in the final of Lyon.  Davidovich Fokina is just 17-13 on the year, but was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. 

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Aryna Sabalenka Powers Through French Open Opener



World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka kicked off her French Open bid with a dominant win over Marta Kostyuk in the first round on Sunday.


Sabalenka, who is yet to reach the second week of Roland Garros in her career, overcame an early setback en route to a 6-3, 6-1, victory. The win is her 30th of the season which is more than anybody else on the WTA Tour. Against Kostyuk, Sabalenka fired a total of 18 winners and converted four out of nine break point opportunities. It is the second time she has beaten the Ukrainian after their inaugural meeting at the 2022 Dubai Tennis Championships. 

“I always thought that my first Grand Slam (title) would be at the French Open. I have no idea why because I couldn’t play on the clay but it was on my mind,” the reigning Australian Open champion said during her on-court interview.
“It’s another goal and I am doing everything that I can to bring my best tennis to the court every time.”

It had been widely expected that the match would be a tense encounter given the current political climate. Sabalenak’s country is accused of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine which is where Kostyuk is from. On Friday the world No.2 said she didn’t expect a handshake to be taking place at the net and has called for politics to be kept outside of sport. A stance that has been criticized by her opponent. 

“Sabalenka might become number one in such a popular sport. Having such a large platform and such a large influence in the world, she refuses it. What kind of message is this for the world?” Kostyuk told BTU 24 hours before their match. 
“We are talking about people being murdered and as a response, we hear that we should leave sport outside of politics. But war does not choose whether you are an athlete or not when it comes to your home.”

However, on Court Philippe Chatrier there was little friction between the two. 20-year-old Kostyuk came into this year’s French Open with a dismal 0-13 record against top-10 opposition on the Tour. However, she was the first to strike in her clash with second seed Sabalenka. After saving two break points during the fourth game, she broke for a 3-2 lead with the help of a delicate drop shot followed by two consecutive errors from her opponent. 

Sabalenka responded instantly by increasing the intensity of her shot-making to once again establish her dominance. A four-game winning streak from the Belarussian enabled her to close out the opening set despite her blip. She secured the 6-3 lead with a clean backhand winner.  

In cruise control, the power of the 25-year-old continued to overwhelm her opponent throughout the second frame. In less than 20 minutes she broke Kostyuk two more times en route to a 4-1 lead. Serving for a place in the second round, Sabalenka battled back from 15-40 down before prevailing on her first match point after hitting a blistering forehand winner.

As expected, Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Sabalenka afterwards and ended up being booed off the court.

“It was a very tough match. It was tough emotionally. At first, I felt that this (the crowd booing) was against me so I was a little surprised but then I felt their support. It’s really important,” said Sabalenka.

It is the 11th time in a row that Sabalenka has won her opening match at a Grand Slam tournament. Besides competing for the trophy, she could also snatch Iga Swiatek’s No.1 ranking and will achieve the milestone if the Pole fails to reach the quarter-finals. 

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It’s A Big French Open For Charleston Tennis Fans



Shelby Rogers hits a forehand during a Women's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Monday, Sep. 6, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Little Charleston, S.C., is playing a major role at the French Open this year.


Two long-time Charleston residents are in the women’s main draw of the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. Shelby Rogers is actually a native of the area, and Emma Navarro has been around since her early years and attended school in Charleston.


Rogers is a seed for the first time in a major, coming in as the No. 32nd seed. She is 30 years old and ranked No. 34 in the world, her highest ranking as a pro.

Rogers has a little of a bad draw, having to go against 38th-ranked Petric Martic of Croatia in the first round.

Navarro is something of a surprise with a red-hot streak leading up to Paris. The 22-year-old former NCAA champion at the University of Virginia was ranked in the 130s going into March, but was awarded a USTA French Open wild card.


As a result of her recent success, Navarro has lifted her current world ranking to No. 75 in the world.

Navarro was a quarterfinalist at the current $259K WTA Strasbourg tournament, losing to Russian Anna Blinkova. She will face another Russian,  55th-ranked Anna Kalinskaya, in the first round in Paris.

Navarro also was a quarterfinalist in the $115K De Saint Malo French event earlier in the month.

Navarro won the $60K ITF event in Charlottesville, Va., before leaving the U.S. That was just a week after winning a $100K ITF in Charleston, S.C.


Of course, word leaked out in 2020 that Pittsburgh product Alison Riske and her husband Stephen Amritraj had purchased a house in downtown Charleston. Navarro resides in downtown Charleston.

Riske-Amritraj also is in the main draw of this French Open. She is currently ranked 85th in the world and will face 16-year-old Russian qualifier Mirra Andreeva in the first round of the French Open.

Riske has another Charleston link in that she won the Junior Family Circle Cup way back in 2010. In the process, she earned a wild card into qualifying for the then Family Circle Cup. The event is now known as Credit One Charleston Open, owned by Emma Navarro’s father Ben Navarro.

A bunch of other players in the French Open main draw have connections to Charleston, Including top-ranked Iga Swiatek, through their success in Charleston ITF or WTA Tour events.

It certainly looks like this will be a big French Open for Charleston tennis fans.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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