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.
Fed Cup To Have A New Format From 2020
Details about the changes to the historic competition has been announced.
The International Tennis Federation has confirmed that home and away finals will be removed from Fed Cup competition in favour of a week-long tournament taking place in a neutral location.
From 2020, the women’s team tournament will follow in the footsteps of the Davis Cup, which underwent a controversial revamp last year. Under the new structure, 12 teams will play in the finals over six days during April. However, home and away ties will still be used in the play-in rounds that will take place during February.
A total of $18 million worth of prize money will be available. The winners of the competition will receive $1.2M for their national federation and an additional $3.2M for players. In comparison, those who reach the group stages will receive $300,000 and $500,000 retrospectively. Overall, $12M will be awarded to players and $6M to national associations.
“The launch of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas finals will create a festival of tennis that elevates the flagship women’s team competition to a new level, yet remains loyal to the historic core of the Fed Cup.” Said ITF President David Haggerty.
“We have consulted and listened to stakeholders and worked with the WTA and its player council to make sure the new format represents the interests of the players.” He added.
The Hungarian capital of Budapest will be the venue of the newly formatted finals between 2020-2022. It will be held at the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena on two clay courts. The competition will be played in a round-robin format with four groups of three. The winner of each group would then progress to the semi-finals.
Besides the February ties, two countries will be handed wild cards into the finals. Hungary will be one of them and another country is yet to be confirmed. Hungary hasn’t played in the top tier of the competition since 2002. This year’s finalists, Australia and France, have also been given direct entry into the finals.
“Fed Cup has evolved since I was part of the first winning team in 1963 but it has always remained true to its roots.” Said Fed Cup ambassador Billie Jean King.
“These reforms are historic as they reflect the ITF’s commitment to unlocking the Fed Cup huge potential, hosting a competition with prize money deserving of the world’s best women’s teams and players. It is an honour to be part of the next evolution of the greatest event in women’s tennis.”
Not all in favour
Earlier this week Simona Halep confirmed that she will stop playing in the Fed Cup should the format change. Countries like Romania now only have a 50% chance of hosting one Fed Cup tie every year over the next three years.
“I love the Fed Cup and I would never change that,” the former world No.1 told reporters earlier this week.
“If Fed Cup changes I won’t play any more. I like the format now so if they change, it will be tough because Fed Cup means to play home and away.”
Halep’s comments were backed by Karolina Pliskova, who represents the Czech Republic. A team who has won the title six times since 2011. Pliskova played in the final of the competition in 2015 and 2016.
“I think they should not change, because especially for smaller countries like Czech Republic, I think this is something that they always look forward to,” said Pliskova.
“We don’t have many (home) tournaments. We have just one. For Romania, they have maybe one tournament too.
“It’s huge when Simona is playing there. So I understand that if she’s playing somewhere else, you don’t feel the same.”
Simona Halep Threatens To Boycott Fed Cup If Revamp Takes Place
The 27-year-old has criticised proposals to change the format of the team competition.
Former world No.1 Simona Halep has said she will stop playing in the Fed Cup if the International Tennis Federation removes home and away ties from the competition.
In recent months there has been speculation that the women’s team event will soon follow the path of the Davis Cup, which has undergone a controversial reform. Where the finals will take place at the end of a year over a week in a neutral location. The driving force behind the changes to the Davis Cup is Kosmos. An investment company founded by Barcelona footballer Gerald Pique. Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion over 25 years.
“I love the Fed Cup and I would never change that,” Reuters News quoted Halep as telling reporters in Eastbourne on Monday.
“If Fed Cup changes I won’t play any more. I like the format now so if they change, it will be tough because Fed Cup means to play home and away.”
Halep helped guide Romania to the semi-finals of the Fed Cup this year in what has been their best performance since 1973. Overall, she has won 22 out of 32 matches played since her debut back in 2010.
“To play at home, it’s the best feeling,” she said.
“I’ve played many years in Fed Cup and the best feeling is to be at home with all the people that come to support and also away you have to manage the emotions and the pressure.”
Earlier this month, ITF president Davis Haggerty vowed to revamp the Fed Cup in order to keep it in line with the men’s equivalent. Although he hasn’t outline an exact date as to when this will take place. Haggerty is seeking re-election this year and has outlined his plans in his manifesto.
“Fed Cup reform is a key focus of the Board in 2019, with the ambition to implement a similar Fed Cup World Cup of Tennis with a minimum of 16 teams in the World Group 2020 and to play one round of qualifying and an eight or 12-team Fed Cup Final in April 2020 in one location. This also aligns with the ITF Gender Equality initiative that we introduced in 2018 and continues to ensure tennis is a welcoming sport.” Sport Business quoted Haggerty as saying.
On Thursday an announcement is expected to be made about the future of the Fed Cup by the ITF in a press conference.
After 26 Years Of Heartbreak, Great Britain Finally Secures Fed Cup Promotion
After losing four play-off ties since 2011, the British team have finally scored the breakthrough they desired.
A duo of hard fought singles victories in London has made history for British Tennis after the Fed Cup team defeated Kazakhstan to reach the World Group stage for the first time since 1993.
Tied at 1-1 after the first day, Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter prevailed in both of their matches to hand Great Britain an overall 3-1 win over their opponents. The proceedings were opened up on Sunday by former top 10 player Konta. Taking on Yania Putintseva, Konta battled to an epic 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory. After dropping the opening set, she was then forced to recover from a 1-4 deficit in the decider to score the crucial victory. Putintseva, who was struggling physically during the match, is only the fourth top 50 player Konta has defeated so far in 2019.
“As a young girl, as an athlete wanting to make it to the top of my sport… you can only dream of this stuff.” She said during an interview with BT Sport. “Gosh that was one hell of a match wasn’t it?”
Following on from Konta’s heroics, it was Boulter’s chance to seal an unassailable lead for her country in the tie. Boulter wasn’t born until three years after her country was last in the World Group of the Fed Cup. The 22-year-old was out to seek redemption after squandering three match points on Saturday during her loss to Putintseva.
This time round Boulter didn’t crumble when under pressure. Like teammate Konta, she roared back from a set down to defeat Zarina Diyas 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1. Winning 67% of her first service points and breaking her opponent’s serve six times throughout the match.
“I was trying to get one win for the team, Johanna did a great job, I was just trying to make them proud today,” she told BT Sport.
“I showed yesterday how much it meant, I was so close but today I bounced back and got the win.
“We go again!!”
The triumph comes after what has been years of heartbreak for the British camp. Prior to 2019, they have been on the verge of reaching World Group II of the Fed Cup four times in seven years. Only to lose all of their play-off ties. Making their victory over Kazakhstan even more sweeter.
“Amazing. Just a heroic effort from the players this week, some fantastic tennis.” Team captain Anne Keothavong commented.
“Everyone here has been part of our journey and this has been an unforgettable weekend.
“Jo’s effort. coming back from behind, to Katie today. I think they have inspired a lot of people.”
Besides their new status, the contingent of player’s are hoping that their performances will help inspire the next generation. At present, there are five British players in the top 200 on the WTA Tour. Three of which are under the age of 22 (Boulter, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan).
“I hope that we have inspired a lot of kids here (in London) today to play tennis or do whatever they want to do.” Said team member Heather Watson.
It remains to be seen what is next for the Brits with the possibility of the Fed Cup changing its format. From next year there is a chance that the world group could be turned into a 12-team format. If this happened, Britain is likely to make that group thanks to their latest win.
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