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.
Australia Ousts Great Britain In Thriller To Reach BJK Cup Final
The host nation narrowly missed out on a place in the final but they have plenty of positives to motivate them for the future.
Australia has denied Great Britain an opportunity to play in their first team final since 1981 after prevailing 2-1 in an epic tussle at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow.
The gripping tie was level at 1-1 after each team won one of the singles matches, paving the way for a winner-takes-all doubles encounter. The British team featured Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls who were both making their debut in the competition this week. Their opponents were former Grand Slam winner Sam Stosur and world No.10 doubles player Storm Sanders.
Despite the gap in experience between the two pairings, there was almost nothing to distinguish between the two throughout the majority of their encounter which lasted more than two hours. Nevertheless, the Australian duo held their nerve to seal a 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6, victory to send them into the final.
“That was amazing. it could have gone either way and credit to the GB girls they played really well. They will be here again for sure.” Sanders said during her on-court interview.
It is only the second time in the past 30 years that Australia has progressed to the final after 2019. Before playing Great Britain, they also defeated Belgium and Slovakia in the group stages.
“A real credit to the four players out on court that was pretty inspirational, so I hope it inspires a lot more of you out there to play doubles. It was really such a high level you couldn’t pick it in the end.” Australian captain Alicia Molik commented on the doubles match.
Earlier in the day, Australia got off to the perfect start with Sanders edging her way past Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(3). However, the host nation battled back with an impressive performance from Harriet Dart who defeated Ajla Tomljanović 7-6(3), 6-2. A player who has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.
“The Billie Jean King Cup just brings the best out of me. I love playing in front of a home crowd, and I feel like I have really been feeding off my teammates and everyone here. It just makes me really want to do really well.” Said Dart.
The performances from the underdogs provide Britain with plenty of hope for the future. The nation lost in qualifying earlier this year but managed to enter the finals via wildcard due to the competition being held in their country.
“I’m just gutted for everyone right now but also I think we have to try and keep things in perspective,” British captain Keothavong told reporters.
“What a fantastic week it has been for the team. I don’t know how many people gave us much of a chance really to even come through the group stages.’
“It really is a fantastic achievement to reach the semifinals but we felt we could have gone further. That’s why it hurts so much.
“It’s going to hurt the players for a while but they’ll (the team) get over it. They can still hold their heads high because they have shown what they are capable of under a huge amount of pressure to deliver, and in the end, it came down to a few points.”
Australia will next play either Switzerland or the Czech Republic in the final. They are seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 1974.
Great Britain Looking To Overcome ‘Experienced’ Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Semis
Great Britain will play their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they play Australia on Saturday.
Great Britain plays their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they face Australia in the last four in Glasgow on Saturday.
It was a heroic effort from Great Britain on Thursday as they battled past Spain to reach the last four at the Billie Jean King Cup.
Having lost to Kazakhstan 2-1 in their opening match, they knew they had to beat Spain 3-0 to qualify for the semi-finals.
But step up Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and the doubles team of Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, as they pulled off a massive upset to seal a place in the semi-finals.
Speaking after the win against Spain, Great Britain’s captain Anne Keothavong praised the doubles pairing of Barnett and Nicholls, “It’s down to their doubles win on Tuesday night (in a 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan) that kept us in this competition,” Keothavong was quoted by tennis365 as saying.
“I think if you watch that match, it’s hard not to feel the joy and the camaraderie between the players. It really truly was infectious.
“I think also Liv and Liss bring something different to the team which we haven’t had before. It’s not just the fact that they specialise in doubles but they have had a life outside of tennis.”
Now Great Britain look to repeat the success of the 1981 side as they look to beat Australia and reach the final.
It will be no easy task though with an in-form Ajla Tomljanovic, Ellen Perez, Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur standing in their way.
Keothavong admitted it will be a tough match but also noted that momentum is on Great Britain’s side, “They are a tough team,” Britain’s captain admitted.
“They are a team with plenty of experience in this competition. But look, we have to believe, and we’re on a high at the moment.”
That semi-final is the first semi-final before reigning champions Switzerland face the Czech Republic at 16:00 GMT.
‘Sky’s The Limit’ – Great Britain Storm Into First Billie Jean King Cup Semis In Over 40 Years
The underdogs have exceeded expectations in front of their home fans in Glasgow.
British captain Anne Keothavong said it was ‘wonderful’ to watch her team pull off a sensational 3-0 win over Spain at the Billie Jean King Cup on Thursday.
After suffering a loss to Kazakhstan earlier in the week, team GB entered their latest tie knowing they have to win all three of their matches without dropping a set if they want to progress to the semi-final stages. Despite having the odds against them, they managed to surge to victory.
Heather Wason thrashed Nuria Perrizas 6-0, 6-2, who is ranked 50 places higher than her in the WTA standings. Then Harriet Dart stunned world No.13 Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-4, in just over 90 minutes. To put that victory into perspective, Dart has only beaten one top-10 player in her career, which was Daria Kasatkina at the US Open earlier this year.
“I’m just so proud to represent my country, to be able to also perform on home soil in front of a home crowd. Doesn’t get more special than that,” Hart told reporters afterwards.
“My goal was to make it as tough as possible out there for her, and I felt like I executed my game plan really well. I knew that all the pressure was on them because on paper she’s meant to beat me easily.”
On the verge of booking a place in the semi-finals, the tie came down to the doubles match. Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls only found out they were playing in the competition for the first time in their careers last week. Despite their inexperience, the duo managed to pull off a shock 7-6(5), 6-2, win over Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova.
“The sky’s the limit after what we have shown so far,” said Nicholls. “We were definitely underdogs in this group. No doubt about it.
“Both the singles girls, Harriet and Heather, getting unbelievable wins. We have shown what we can do on the doubles court at well. I don’t see there are any players or teams here that we shouldn’t walk onto court thinking we can’t beat. We will just keep going.”
The triumph makes it the first time Britain has reached the semi-finals since 1981 when the event was called the Federation Cup. Britain, who are currently ranked 17th in the team standings, only managed to qualify for the finals due to being the host nation.
“It sure is (historic) – this is something really special,” said Keothavong.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Every single player on the team has done us proud, the team spirit has been high, and I just want to thank everyone who has come to support the British team here. It really makes the difference and we really appreciate the support.
“We want to put women’s sport and tennis on the map and the support you give us is helping us to create amazing memories.”
Britain will next take on Australia who coincidentally was the country they faced the last time they reached the semi-finals more than 40 years ago. Australia, which is headed by top-40 player Ajla Tomljanović, has topped their group following a 3-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Slovakia.
“We are not here to participate – we are here to try and win this event,” said team member Storm Saunders.
“Everyone on the team, it’s a priority for us to win. So, semi-finals is, yeah, a good step but we’re here for more.”
Britain is seeking to win the title for the first time in history and Australia is aiming to claim their first since 1974.
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