A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 2 (Return, Backhand and Slices) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 2 (Return, Backhand and Slices)

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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.

  • Return of serve

In order to balance last week’s article, when we named the best five servers on tour, it seems about right that this week we will open with the best five girls on return and you could possibly be surprised by some of the names.

1) Simona Halep

The world number three tops this category thanks to her great anticipation skills. It is very hard to ace her and her fast and short swings allow her to return powerful serves as well as slower ones with the same precision. During the year she won 47.1% of the games on return, finishing second behind another player listed later on here. Her ability to be incisive on return even against big serves and on every surface is putting her on top of this category.

2) Agnieszka Radwanska

The Pole comes second in our rating of returners because she is not the kind of players that will hit tons of winners from the first shot, but she can open up the court well and close within a couple of shots. Her percentage of points won returning both the first and second serves are top 5 on the tour, thanks to her variety of solutions.

3) Maria Sharapova

There must be a certain fear running into everyone’s veins when they are about to serve a second serve and they see the wide shoulders of the Russian champion far inside the baseline, ready to kill whatever ball is about to arrive. Her numbers are not as impressive as the ones of the rest of the names of this list, because her attacking attitude often leads to errors, but it’s a risk worth taking, especially as it keeps her opponents fearing every return she hits.

Maria Sharapova4) Monica Niculescu

If she had not had to serve, she would have won a lot more than she has. The world number 46 tops the WTA rankings for points won returning first serves and the most breaks taken (48.5%, basically she breaks once every two games on return!), is ranked fourth for break points conversion and sixth on second serve return points won. Why have we not put her first? Well, she finds it hard to keep these stats up while facing top 10 players, but this does not mean she is not among the best five returners.

5) Sara Errani

For the Italian, whatever has been said for the Romanian is true as well, but her numbers have not been as impressive in 2014. But for such a short girl, whose serve is hampered by a genetic shoulder problem, it would not be possible to be close to the top girls over and over again if her return skills were not as good as they are.

  • Backhand

It is a two-handed job only, or almost. In the women’s tour the single handed backhand is as rare as a Siberian tiger, but that does not diminish the quality of this shot in the tour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqVeN6xyZfw

1) Serena Williams: with this one I swear she will not top any other ranking. But can any girl constantly win a duel of backhands with the world number one? Highly doubt so.

2) Simona Halep: the Romanian sensation, the girl the rose from a career of anonymity to world number two in the space of a year. She may be short, but her ball is heavy and accurate when it needs to be, a stiletto that passes you as you least expect it.

Caroline Wozniacki, Eastbourne 2014 by Giulio Gasparin

Caroline Wozniacki, Eastbourne 2014 by Giulio Gasparin

3) Caroline Wozniacki: the former world number one means business again after the notorious split with her (now former) fiancé. No other shot than her beloved backhand can better represent her newly improved game, especially down the line, it gives very little chances to her opponents.

4) Maria Sharapova: the Russian’s best shot is probably not the most beautiful of this ranking, but it definitely is as dangerous. It is the most powerful and penetrating of the tour, only its consistency is preventing it from being higher on the list.

5) Flavia Pennetta/ Jelena Jankovic: two veterans, two stunning backhands. Both players could paint the down the line even during their sleep. Both girls score probably the highest marks in terms of beauty of the shot, but the viewer should not believe it is only pretty, their opponents know it.

Honourable mention: Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard is the last standing vessel of aggressive and effective one handed backhands.

  • Slices

Who said women do not possess variety? If you are a fan of tricks and unusual shots, these are the girls to follow.

1) Agnieszka Radwanska: from behind-the-back volleys to chip and charge, from hidden dropshots to crafty backspins, there is a reason why they call her the magician.

2) Monica Niculescu: a name that is probably not very familiar to many non-die-hard fans, but the Romanian is an experience every tennis lover should have once. She plays a double-handed forehand sometimes, but it is very rare, she prefers to slice it and with many variations in length, height and speed. It is a nightmare to play against, ask Safarova.

Roberta Vinci at the WTA Luxemburg by Ike Leus 2

Roberta Vinci at the WTA Luxemburg by Ike Leus

3) Roberta Vinci: the Italian did not have the best season this year, after falling short of her top 10 chase. However, her sliced backhand remains one of the most remarkable and hardest to read and deal with.

4) Petra Kvitova: the name you would not expect on this list. However, the Wimbledon champion has got quite an effective alternative to her flat backhand and she can cause almost as many problems with it.

5) Magdalena Rybarikova: rumour has the Slovak being one of the worst sparring partners on tour, she prefers to hit all sorts of fun/awkward/strange shots rather than drilling. It clearly reflects on how unpredictable and yet effective her slices are.

Honourable mention:Timea Bacsinszky. One has to put her name up on this list. The reason why she is not top 5 is because she is quite inconsistent and has played too little against top players, but she showed all her skills against Sharapova this year. Another Swiss is worth a call, Romina Oprandi. She has definitely got the softest hands on tour, even more than Radwnaska, however, her injuries and physical problems are often preventing her to show all of her talent.

To be continued next week, who will be the best 5 at the net?

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Gerard Pique Believes Long-Term Davis Cup Project Will Work Despite Critics

Gerard Pique claims that the new Davis Cup is a long-term project as the competition kicks off today in Madrid.

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Gerard Pique (@bbctennis - Twitter)

Footballer Gerard Pique believes the Davis Cup is a long-term project that can work despite criticism over the re-formatted competition. 

 

Last August, the Barcelona defender had his re-formatted idea of the Davis Cup approve as part of big funding put in by his company Kosmos.

The competition, which starts today in Madrid, sees 18 teams compete in a one-week competition where they will fight for the Davis Cup title.

Despite Pique’s enthusiasm for the event, many fans and players have criticised the move explaining how the 118 year history of the competition has ended.

However for the Spaniard, he believes that he has convinced many doubters on this journey, “In terms of the event we needed to convince different people who were maybe sceptical and were against the idea of changing the format,” Pique admitted to Davis Cup.com.

“We’ve had to face it since the beginning. This is something I believe we did an amazing job at because we feel people in the game are now more convinced.

“The Davis Cup has a big meaning in the world of sport and tennis, there were some people against it, but right now I feel that Davis Cup is going to be stronger than it has been in the last 10 years.”

Despite the likes of Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev missing from this week’s competition, there are eleven top 20 players competing including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Many critics are seeing this innovation as a short-term project but Pique hasn’t seen it that way and believes that in five years time people will be convinced about the event, “I like to think big and our idea since the beginning is to put this competition where it deserves to be, and maybe to create an event longer than one week,” the Spaniard said.

We understand we have to start little by little. I don’t want to compare ourselves to any other tournament because I think we are unique. In five years’ time I want everyone, players and fans, to think ‘Davis Cup is in November and I want to be there.'”

Even though there are doubters players such as Andy Murray have told people to give the event a chance despite the amount of tickets that are still available for the event.

The action begins today at 3pm GMT time with three ties:

Croatia v Russia

Italy v Canada

Belgium v Colombia

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ATP

Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claim their first ATP Finals title in London

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The French team formed by Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claimed their first men’s doubles title with a 6-3 6-4 win over Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in 70 minutes at the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London ending the 2019 ATP season on a high note with back-to-back titles in Paris Bercy and London. They remained unbeaten during the whole week at the ATP Finals in London winning all five matches in straight sets.

 

Herbert and Mahut fended off all four break points they faced scoring their ninth consecutive match win. The French doubles specialists have become the first team to win the doubles ATP Finals title without dropping a set since Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in 2015.

Herbert and Mahut fended off break points in the third game of the match before earning the only break of the opening set in the next game. The Frenchmen saved a break point in the sixth game before breaking serve in the seventh game.

They have become the French team to win the ATP Finals doubles title since Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, who triumphed in Shanghai in 2005.

Herbert and Mahut have won 15 doubles titles as a team during their career. This year they became the eighth men’s doubles team to complete the career Grand Slam at last January’s Australian Open and also won the Rolex Paris Masters in front of their home fans.

Last year they came within one point of winning the ATP Finals title against Mike Bryan and Jack Sock after holding a match point.

“Thank you Nicolas for sharing the court, for having so much enjoyable moments and giving me so much joy, when I am with you on the court. You played an unbelievable final, so thank you for that”, said Pierre Hugues Herbert.

 

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ATP

Jannik Sinner wins his third ATP Challenger in Ortisei

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Jannik Sinner won the ATP Challenger in Ortisei adding another title to his impressive collection of trophies he lifted during a memorable 2019 season.

 

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion beat world number 173 Sebastian Ofner from Austria 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 6 minutes in the final of the Sparkasse Challenger Val Gardena Sudtirol at the Tennis Center in Ortisei.

Sinner won his third ATP Challenger title in 2019 after his previous wins in Bergamo and Lexington. He also reached the final in Ostrava. During the tournament the 18-year-old player from San Candido beat Lucas Miedler in the first round, Roberto Marcora in the second round, Federico gaio in the quarter final and Antoine Hoang in the semifinal without dropping a set.

Sinner will improve his ranking to his career-high at world number 78 in the ATP Ranking becoming the sixth best ranked Italian player after Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi.

Sinner broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner missed two game points in the seventh game. The Austrian player faced another break point after his third double fault. In the next game Sinner saved the first break point he faced. Sinner closed out the first set 6-2 after two backhand errors from Ofner in the eighth game.

Sinner went up a break to open up a 2-0 lead, but Ofner broke back in the fourth game and held on his serve to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner saved three break points in the seventh game to take a 4-3. Sinner converted his fourth break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and served out the win with two consecutive aces.

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