TENNIS WTA REVIEW – In our traditional review of the 2014 season we look back to the best players of the year, the rising stars, the best matches, the major upsets of the season and the biggest rivalries of the WTA Tour. Diego Sampaolo
The best player of the year: Serena Williams:
Serena Williams claimed her fifth WTA Finals title with her 6-3 6-0 win over Simona Halep in Singapore, tying Steffi Graf as the second most successful player in the history of this tournament after Martina Navratilova, who collected eight wins. Serena bounced back from the worst defeat in her career against the young Romanian player who claimed an upset 6-2 6-0 win in the round-robin. In the semifinal of the WTA Finals Serena battled past her close friend Caroline Wozniacki in a dramatic three-set match with 2-6 6-3 7-6. Williams collected four more WTA Finals titles in 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013 and finished runner-up twice in 2002 to Kim Clijsters and 2004 to Maria Sharapova.
The US legend bounced back from three early exits in the first three Grand Slam tournaments of the year at the Australian Open, at the Roland Garros and at Wimbledon by winning her sixth US Open title against Wozniacki. She also won in Brisbane, Miami, Rome, Stanford and Cincinnati (one of the few top tournaments missing from her impressive trophy cabinet). Despite some ups and downs Serena had a very solid year claiming a 12-1 record against the top-10 players losing her only match against Halep in the round robin of the WTA Finals in Singapore. It is the sixth time in her career that Serena has clinched the WTA Player of the Year Award after 2002, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The most consistent players: Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic
Simona Halep enjoyed a very consistent year. She started 2014 at Number 11 and finished the year at Number 3 after reaching her first Grand Slam final at the Roland Garros and won two titles in Doha and Bucharest. RaShe lost the final against Williams at the WTA Championships in Singapore. She set a career high of Number 2 improving the previous Romanian record held by Irina Spirlea who reached the World Number 7. She also reached the quarter final at the Australian Open and the semifinal at Wimbledon.
“I think winning my semifinal at the French Open was the happiest moment of the year for me. It’s because it put me in my Grand Slam final and doing that at the French Open was my dream because I won it in the juniors. That was the happiest moment of the year”
Ana Ivanovic made up for some ups and downs in Grand Slams where she achieved her best result by reaching the quarter final at the Australian Open with a very consistent season in the WTA circuit throughout the year in which she claimed titles in Auckland, Monterrey, Acapulco, Monterrey and Birmingham.
The come-back of the year: Caroline Wozniacki
The Danish player, former Number 1 player in the WTA Ranking, came back to her glorious past during the summer US hard-court season. She lost to Serena Williams in the quarter finals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal after leading by a set and a break. In Cincinnati she beat Angelique Kerber in the third round and Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter final before losing in three sets to eventual champion Serena Williams. She lost the US Open final against Serena Williams in straight sets. During the Asian Swing Wozniacki edged Garbine Muguruza in the semifinal in three hard-fought sets before losing the final against Ivanovic in the final. In the inaugural edition of the Wuhan Open the Dane lost in the semifinal against Bouchard in straight sets. At the WTA Championships in Singapore she got through the round robin group beating Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska before losing an epic three-set thriller against Serena Williams in the semifinal.
In the off-season Wozniacki clocked an impressive time of 3:26:33 in her first marathon in New York where she ran for charity. Her training for the New York City Marathon has contributed to her good results during the US hard-court season and at the WTA Championships in Singapore.
The Most Improved player: Eugenie Bouchard
The young Canadian player, the WTA Newcomer of the year in 2013, reached the semifinals in the first two Grand Slam tournaments at the Australian Open and at the Roland Garros before qualifying for her first Major final at Wimbledon becoming the first Canadian player to achieve this feat. During the autumn season Bouchard became the first Canadian player to reach the top-5 and qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore. She is the first player born in 1992 or later to break into the top-10 and is the youngest player in the top-25 ranking. Thanks to these remarkable results Bouchard was voted the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year. She received 45 of 58 media votes and 49 percent of fan votes beating Karolina Pliskova who won two titles in Seul and Linz.
Sportsmanship of the Year Award: Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova won the WTA Karen Kranzcke Sportsmanship Award which acknowledges a player’s professionalism, attitude and sense of fair play. The Czech player enjoyed a great second half of the year claiming her second Wimbledon triumph three years after her first Grand Slam triumph in 2011. She also won two more titles in New Haven and Wuhan and finished the year in fourth place in the WTA Ranking, a remarkable achievement considering that she was ranked 16th before Wimbledon. In the new Chinese tournament Kvitova beat Bouchard in a re-match of the Wimbledon final and won the third Fed Cup title for the Czech team after a dramatic final against Germany in Prague.
The queen of Clay: Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova lifted her second Roland Garros Trophy beating Simona Halep in a thrilling final two years after beating Sara Errani. The Russian legend has become the most consistent player on clay. On this surface she also collected her third consecutive Stuttgart title and beat Simona Halep in a hard-fought Madrid final.
The doubles team of the year: Errani and Vinci
The Italian “Chiquis” ended the year at the top of the WTA doubles ranking for the third consecutive year after claiming two Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon. Thanks to their Wimbledon triumph the Italian players completed the Career Doubles Grand Slam becoming the fifth team in the Open Era to achieve this feat after Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, Kathy Jordan and Anne Smith, Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Serena and Venus Williams.
Li Na retired from professional tennis:
The 2014 season was marked by the retirement of Li Na one of the most popular stars. She will be sadly missed for her charismatic character and her smile. Li Na started the 2014 season on a high note with the Shenzhen title and her first Australian Open win and her second Grand Slam. In the Melbourne final Li Na defeated Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova to become the first ever Asian champion at the Australian Open. Sadly a knee injury forced Li Na to withdraw from professional tennis
Swiss rising star Belinda Bencic, who ended the year in 33rd place in the WTA Ranking, was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year after an outstanding summer season in which she became the youngest player to reach the quarter final at the US Open since her compatriot Martina Hingis in 1997. She beat Angelique Kerber recording her first ever win against a top-ten player before defeating former World Number 1 Jelena Jankovic in two sets. She was beaten by China’s Peng Shua in the quarter final.
Bencic, who won the French Open and the Wimbledon Junior titles in 2013, is coached by her father and Martina Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis. Belinda began playing at the age of four at Martina Molitor’s tennis school. The 17-year-old player became the first Swiss girl to win the Roland Garros Junior title since Martina Hingis in 1994. She defeated another rising star Taylor Townsend to win the Wimbledon Junior title.
Garbine Muguruza made a major breakthrough at the Roland Garros where the young Spanish player upset Serena Williams in the second round before losing to Sharapova in three sets in the quarter final. At the Australian Open Muguruza upset Caroline Wozniacki in three sets to reach the fourth round before losing against Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets. She also reached the semifinals in the doubles teaming up with Carla Suarez Navarro at the French Open losing to eventual winners Peng Shuai and Su-Wei Hsieh. During the autumn Asian Swing Muguruza lost to eventual runner-up Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal in Tokyo.
Another name to follow in the future is US Taylor Townsend who made her debut in a Grand Slam singles tournament. After defeating Vania King in the first round, she upset World Number 20 Alizé Cornet in the second round. The US rising star lost to Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.
Another US rising star who made her debut on the Grand Slam stage was Cici Bellis, a 15-year-old player who upset 2014 Australian Open champion Dominica Cibulkova at the US Open becoming the youngest player to win a match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova.
The best matches of the year:
Semifinal WTA Championships Singapore: Serena Williams beat Caroline Wozniacki 2-6 6-3 7-6.
Williams beat her friend Wozniacki to get through to the final of the WTA Finals for the seventh time in her career. Wozniacki, the only player to get through to the semifinals without losing a round-robin match, cruised through to win the first set with 6-2 after 26 minutes. Williams bounced back to claim a second-set win with 6-3 to force the match to the third set. Wozniacki broke serve for 5-4 but Williams broke back to draw level to 5-5. Williams earned a match point as Wozniacki was serving at 5-6. The Dane saved the match with a volley. The match came down to the tie-break where Wozniacki cruised to a 4-1 lead. Williams won three consecutive points to draw level to 4-4. The US star missed out on two match points at 6-4 and 6-5 before clinching a dramatic win on the fourth match point with a forehand return.
Final Roland Garros: Maria Sharapova beat Simona Halep 6-4 6-7 6-4
It was the best Grand Slam final in 2014. Maria Sharapova fought back from a set down to defeat Spanish Newcomer Garbine Muguruza in the quarter final and Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinal to qualify for her third straight Roland Garros final. Sharapova needed three sets to edge Simona Halep in a re-match of the Madrid Mutua Open to clinch her second Roland Garros title and her fifth Grand Slam win after a three- hour epic battle. It was the first time since 2001 that a Roland Garros final came down to the third set. Sharapova went down a break in the first set but she built up a 6-4 2-0 lead with a break in the second set but Halep recovered to win the second set at the tie-break. Halep broke serve twice and served for the set but Sharapova broke back both times. In the tie-break Sharapova went up 5-3 and came two points from winning the match but Halep reeled off four consecutive points to win the tie-break forcing the match to the decider. The Romanian player held two break points for a 3-1 lead in the third set and drew level to 4-4. Sharapova held on to win the final two games of the decider.
“I never thought seven or eight years ago that I would win more Roland Garros titles when I was 27 years old than any other Grand Slams”, said Sharapova who won Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.
Round of 32 Wimbledon: Petra Kvitova beat Venus Williams 5-7 7-6 7-5
Petra Kvitova fought back from a set down to win an epic three-set match against Venus Williams. The two-hour and 30-minute match featured just two breaks of serve. Both players played a three-set match for the fifth time. Williams saved a break point in the opening game of the first set before breaking serve to love at 6-5 to win the first set. Kvitova held serve at 15-30 in the second set as she was serving to stay in the set at 4-5 before taking the tie-break with 7-2 to force the match to the decider. Neither Williams nor Kvitova managed to earn a break point until Venus dropped her serve at 5-6 on the first break point she faced in the third set.
Semifinal WTA Premier Cincinnati: Ana Ivanovic beat Maria Sharapova 6-2 5-7 7-5
Ana Ivanovic won a thrilling semifinal in Cincinnati in three dramatic sets over Maria Sharapova. Ivanovic led by a set and a double break. She served for the match at 5-2 but Sharapova fought back reeling off five consecutive games to win the second set 7-5. In the third set Sharapova served for the match and earned two match points but Ivanovic saved them to claim her first hard-court win over Sharapova with 6-2 5-7 7-5.
The biggest upsets of the Year:
Australian Open quarter final: Ana Ivanovic beat Serena Williams:
Ana Ivanovic fought back from a set down to take an upset win over Serena Williams with 4-6 6-3 6-3. It was a remarkable win for Ivanovic who had not got through the fourth round in Melbourne since she reached the final in 2008.
Rome third round: Ana Ivanovic beat Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova enjoyed a perfect start to her clay season winning 12 matches in a row including two titles in Stuttgart and Madrid but this time Ivanovic claimed an upset win in three sets. The Serb stormed to a 6-1 win in the first set and broke in the first game of the second set but Sharapova broke back to force the match to the third set. Ivanovic broke for 5-4 before closing out the match with a forehand winner on her match point
Wimbledon third round: Alizé Cornet beat Serena Williams
Alizé Cornet upset Serena Williams twice this season in Dubai and at Wimbledon. In Dubai the French player reached the final where she lost to Serena’s sister Venus. At Wimbledon she fought back from a set down to score her second win in a row over Serena with 1-6 6-3 6-4 before losing to Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round.
The team of the year: Czech Republic wins the Fed Cup
Czech Republic beat Germany 3-1 to clinch the third Fed Cup title in four years. The final held at the O2 Arena in Prague was highlighted by a fantastic three-set final rubber match between Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber. Kvitova battled past her German rival 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 in a thrilling match in front of 13000 enthusiastic fans. Czech Republic won the eighth Fed Cup title in history becoming the second most successful nation in this competition.
In the decisive roller-coaster match Kerber converted her break point in the seventh game for 5-2 but Kvitova fought back when she converted her sixth break point chance of the match and got another break to draw level to 5-5. Kerber broke back immediately for 6-5 but she failed to serve out the set. In a very tight tie-break Kvitova wrapped up the first set after 1 hour and 16 minutes. Kvitova broke serve twice to go up 3-0 but Kerber reeled off three consecutive games to draw level to 3-3. Kerber brought up two break point chances in the 10th game of the second set and closed it out at the first opportunity. Kerber stormed to a 3-0 lead in the decider but Kvitova recovered to draw level to 4-4 before breaking serve for 5-4 in the ninth game. Kvitova sealed a thrilling win on the fourth match point after a 2-hour and 57-minute battle.
In the other two matches Kvitova beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-4 and Lucie Safarova prevailed over Kerber with 6-4 6-4.
Great Britain To Play Billie Jean King Cup Finals After Glasgow Picked As Host Nation
The UK will stage the finale of the women’s biggest team tennis event for the first time in over 30 years.
The International Tennis Federation has selected Glasgow as the host nation of this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals following a successful bid from the British LTA.
A total of 12 nations will participate in the six-day event which will be held between November 8-13 at the Emirates Arena. A facility originally built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games that has since staged various events, including Davis Cup ties. It has a seating capacity of roughly just over 8000 people. This year’s finals will be held on indoor hardcourts.
It is only the fourth time Britain has staged the finals of the tournament which was previously known as the Fed Cup. It was previously held in London 1963, Eastbourne 1977 and Nottingham 1991.
“We are delighted to be bringing the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals to Glasgow. The LTA presented a very impressive bid as part of a competitive hosting process. They have successfully hosted Davis Cup ties in Glasgow, and we look forward to having the women’s World Cup of Tennis take place in front of passionate tennis fans from around the world in an electric atmosphere, at the culmination of the women’s tennis season.” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement.
Great Britain automatically qualifies for the final as they are the hosts. They will be joined by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland and USA. The format of the round-robin event will see the teams split into four groups of three. The will of each group will then progress to the knockout stages.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to build the profile of women’s tennis and focus attention on women’s sport. The entire team are very excited about playing in front of a home crowd and hearing some loud support across the whole week.” British captain Anne Keothavong commented.
The Russian Tennis Federation won the tournament last year but they will not be allowed to participate this year. Russian and Belarussian teams have been suspended from taking part in ITF team events as the result of the Ukraine war. Russia launched a ‘special military’ operation on February 24th and Belarus is suspected of supporting them.
The draw for the Billie Jean King Cup finals will take place at a later date.
Emma Raducanu Believes Clay Could Be ‘One Of Her Strongest’ Surfaces
The world No.12 is yet to play a Tour event on the clay but she has high hopes for the future.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu may still be relatively new to the WTA Tour but she believes the upcoming clay swing could help provide her with the foundations to shine on the surface.
Raducanu, who made her WTA debut last June, is yet to play a Tour event on the clay. In fact, she has never played a senior event of any kind on the surface. However, during her junior event she played in nine clay tournaments between 2016-2018, including the 2018 girls French Open where she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
Despite her lack of experience, the Brit remains confident that she will be able to thrive on the surface. Speaking to reporters ahead of her country’s Billie Jean Cup tie with the Czech Republic, which will take place on clay, Raducanu believes her love for sliding on the court will help her in the coming years.
“I feel this could be one of my strongest surfaces going forward but of course it’s early days right now,” she said.
“I feel like I have got a lot more potential physically. And I do enjoy sliding. So, after spending more time on this surface, I’m sure I’ll time it better and learn more about the surface but also just the time that the clay brings. I feel like I can really use it and play aggressive.”
Since her breakthrough run at the US Open last September, Raducanu has struggled to maintain her form with a series of disappointing results. So far this season the rising star has managed to win just two out of seven matches played. Four out of her five losses were to players ranked outside the world’s top 50.
Part of the problem for the 19-year-old has been her own body. She has suffered from a hip injury which forced her to retire from a match in Mexico earlier this year and has also been hindered by blisters. Furthermore, Raducanu revealed that she has also lost all of her toenails. Prompting British team captain Anne Keothavong to joke that everybody is ‘a little bit scared’ by her toes.
“I have no toenails,” Raducanu stated.
“It was just my foot, my shoes, they’ve just been sliding around a lot [in the shoe].
“I had a small niggle in Miami but now I have no physical thing.”
Raducanu will be hoping to lead her country to victory in their Billie Jean King Cup tie which will be held in Prague. It will be the first time she has ever played in the event.
“I love playing as a team, especially the team we’ve got here,” she said.
“I feel like everyone has been a lot of fun and there’s been a great connection off court, whether that’s playing murder mystery games or cornhole, we’re definitely bonding and gelling very well.”
Raducanu is the only top 20 player participating in the tie.
Great Britain Handed Tough Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers Draw Against Czech Republic
Great Britain have a tough test in the Czech Republic in the BJK Cup qualifiers in April.
Great Britain will need to beat the Czech Republic away if they want to qualify for next year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals after the draw was made today.
Anne Keothavong’s team beat Mexico earlier in the year to earn a place in the qualifiers next year.
However in today’s draw, Great Britain will need to overcome a huge test as they will go to the Czech Republic next April.
Czech Republic have won six of the last nine Billie Jean King Cups and boast the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova, Marketa Vondrousova, Katarina Siniakova and Petra Kvitova.
Speaking after the draw Keothavong is looking forward to the test that awaits them in April, “The team are really looking forward to taking on Czech Republic in our 2022 qualifier and hopefully continuing our momentum in the Billie Jean King Cup next year,” she told skysports.com.
The Czechs are currently hosting this year’s finals and fell at the semi-final stage after losing a tight match to Switzerland.
Other key matches sees a repeat of this year’s group stage match between Belgium and Belarus while USA will host Elina Svitolina’s Ukraine team.
Here are the ties with the qualifiers taking place on the 15-16th of April next year with the finals happening next November:
Czech Republic v Great Britain
Australia v Slovakia
France v Italy
USA v Ukraine
Belarus v Belgium
Germany v Kazakhstan
Canada v Latvia
Spain v Netherlands
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