A Review Of The 2017 WTA season - UBITENNIS
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A Review Of The 2017 WTA season

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Ubitennis.net reviews a memorable 2017 WTA season, which was highlighted by Serena Williams’ win over her sister Venus in the Australian Open, Garbine Muguruza’s win at Wimbledon, the consistent results of Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams, the breakthrough of Jelena Ostapenko and the comeback of Sloane Stephens at the US Open

The best players of the year:

Garbine Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza clinched the second Grand Slam title of her career at Wimbledon by beating Venus Williams one year after her win over Serena at 2016 Roland Garros. The 24-year-old became the first player to beat both of the Williams sisters in Grand Slam finals. She won the Cincinnati title and reached the semifinals or better at Brisbane, Rome, Birmingham, Stanford and Tokyo. She climbed to World Number 1 after the US Open to become the 24th player in WTA history to do so and is the second Spanish player after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1995 to reach the top of the ranking.

Simona Halep
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During the China Open Muguruza was overtaken by Simona Halep, who became the fifth player to reach the top of the WTA Ranking this season after Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Muguruza. Halep missed out on her chance to reach the world number 1 spot twice this year, but reached the top of the rankings for the first time in her career at the third time of asking by defeating Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals of the China Open before losing to Caroline Garcia in the final. The Romanian became the seventh player to reach the world number 1 without winning a Grand Slam tournament, but she had a good season highlighted by her second consecutive title in Madrid, as well as four finals in Rome, Roland Garros, Cincinnati and Beijing. Halep is the first Romanian and the 25th player in history to take the world number 1 spot.

“It was very emotional. I think it was the first time that I cried on court. It’s amazing that I could do this. It was the toughest year, but also the best year. I was injured and I did not believe I would even be in Singapore,” Halep said about becoming world No.1.

The most consistent players:

Venus Williams

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In a very unpredictable season where each of the Grand Slam tournaments was won by four different players and there were many champions in most of the major Premier events, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki stood out as two of the most consistent stars on the WTA circuit. Venus reached two Grand Slam finals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon and at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Returning back into the top 5 in the WTA Rankings, 12 spots better than in 2016.

At the Australian Open she came back from one set down to beat Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 6-2 6-3 to advance to her first Grand Slam final since Wimbledon 2009 and her first Australian Open final since 2003. In the title match she lost to her younger sister Serena, who made history by winning her 23rd career Grand Slam title before ending her season to give birth to her first daughter Alexis Olympia last September.

Venus beat Johanna Konta in the semifinal at Wimbledon, but lost the final against Muguruza. The US legend reached the world number 9 after Wimbledon. At the US Open Venus beat Petra Kvitova in a third set tie-break after 2 hours and 35 minutes in the quarter final to make her return to the top five of the WTA Ranking for the first time since January 2011. Williams was then defeated by Sloane Stephens in her first US Open semifinal since 2010.

At the WTA Finals in Singapore Williams beat Caroline Garcia in the semifinal before losing to Caroline Wozniacki in the final.

Caroline Wozniacki

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Wozniacki won two titles in Tokyo and Singapore and qualified for six more finals this year in Doha, Dubai, Miami, Eastbourne, Bastad and Toronto. At the WTA Finals in Singapore the Danish player of Polish origin lifted the biggest title of her career to move up to the world number 3 in the WTA Ranking, her highest year-end ranking since 2011.

Elina Svitolina

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Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina won more titles on the WTA circuit than any other player and was the first player from her country to qualify for her WTA Finals in Singapore. Lifting three Premier 5 titles in Dubai, Rome and Toronto, plus two International-level tournaments in Taiwan and Istanbul.

In Toronto she beat four top 10 players (Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki) en route to the title. She also reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros and reached the top-5 in the WTA Ranking for the first time in her career.

The Surprise of the year: Jelena Ostapenko

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The 20-year-old Latvian player won her first tour-level singles title and Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros by beating Simona Halep in the final. She was the first unseeded player to win the French Open in the Open Era. Ostapenko went on to win another title in Seoul and qualified for the WTA Finals for the first time in her career and reached her career-high of world number 7 last October. She has played 26 three-set matches with a 19-7 win-loss record.

The Comeback of the year: Sloane Stephens

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The US player, who made her breakthrough in 2013 when she reached the Australian Open semifinals, won her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open after defeating five seeds en route to the final, including Dominika Cibulkova, Venus Williams in the semifinal and Madison Keys in the final. The US Open featured four home players in the semifinal (Stephens, Keys, Williams and Coco Vandeweghe). Stephens ended the 2016 season in August due to a serious foot injury and underwent surgery last January. After missing the first part of the season, Sloane returned to the court at Wimbledon, where she lost to Alison Riske in the first round. Stephens beat two top 20 players Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber in Toronto to reach the semifinals. She beat Kvitova for the second consecutive week to reach her second semifinal in a row in Cincinnati. After winning the US Open title she climbed to world number 17 and ended the year ranked 15.

The Rising star of the Year: Catherine Bellis

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US teenager Catherine “Cici” Bellis reached the semifinals at Mallorca and Stanford, the quarter finals at Dubai and Rabat and reached the third round at Roland Garros and Toronto. She ended the 2016 season at world number 90 and reached a career-high at number 35. She ended the 2017 ranked world number 44. The 18-year-old player has beaten four top 20 players. Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai, Kiki Bertens in Roland Garros, Petra Kvitova in Stanford and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Toronto.

Doubles team of the year: Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan

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The Swiss and Taipei team won nine titles at Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome, Mallorca, Eastbourne, Cincinnati, US Open, Wuhan and Beijing and ended the season with a 49-6 win-loss record. They advanced to at least the quarterfinal stage at every tournament they have played together this year.

The match of the year:

Jelena Ostapenko beat Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3 Roland Garros Final

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Ostapenko came back from one set down to beat Halep and win her maiden Grand Slam title after the most exciting match of the 2017 Roland Garros. Halep rallied from a break down to win the first set. The Romanian player opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Ostapenko bounced back by winning six consecutive games to win the second set forcing the match to the third set. Halep got a break in the fourth game of the decisive set to take a 3-1 lead but Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. The Latvian player reeled off the final five games to win her first career Grand Slam.

“I cannot believe I am a Grand Slam champion at 20. It’s amazing to be here. I have no words. It is my dream. I knew Simona was a great player, but I tried to play aggressively and everything turned my way. I fought for every point. I am glad it finished my way,” said a delighted Ostapenko in Paris.

The best team of the year: USA

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The US team beat Belarus 3-2 in Minsk to lift their 18th Fed Cup in history. The team coached by Kathy Rinaldi clinched the trophy after Coco Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers beat Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in the decisive doubles match. Vandeweghe was the star of the US team as she won eight Fed Cup matches and became the first player to win more than six Fed Cup singles matches in a year since Petra Kvitova in 2011.

Vandeweghe enjoyed an impressive season at Grand Slam level reaching two semifinals at the Australian Open and at the US Open. She ended the season in the top 10 for the first time in her career after reaching the final at the WTA Elite Trophy Final in Zhuhai. The New York-born player hails from a sports family. Her mother is Tauna Vandeweghe, a 1976 Olympic swimmer. Coco’s grandfather Ernie Vandeweghe was a New York Knicks basketball player. Her uncle Kiki Vandeweghe and her grandmother’s brothers Mel Hutchins were NBA basketball players.

 

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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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