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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Frances Tiafoe scrapes through in five, faces Taylor Fritz next at the Australian Open

Frances Tiafoe battled past Marco Trungelliti to set up a second round meeting with Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open.

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Frances Tiafoe (@usta - Twitter)

America’s Frances Tiafoe needed to dig deep on day two of the Australian Open to defeat a spirited Marco Trungelliti 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

 

In the second round the 23 year-old will play a familiar face in fellow American Taylor Fritz, who by contrast prevailed in straight sets against German qualifier Maximilian Marterer, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-2.

Fritz and Tiafoe know each other well from their junior days and also featured in the second edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals back in 2018.

Fritz will certainly be the fresher of the two when they face off in the all-American clash on Thursday.

There will be some regret from Tiafoe that he didn’t get the job done in four sets, but the Argentine qualifier played well above his ranking of 198 in the world.

Trungelliti was crunching the ball from the baseline, throwing up two break points, only for Tiafoe to save them with some big hitting of his own.

A monstrous backhand down the line sealed the opening game.

The 31-year-old from Santiago del Estero continued to hustle the Tiafoe serve, breaking the American in the third and ninth games to seize the opening set 6-3.

A sublime lob from Trungelliti saw him race into a 2-1 lead in the second set and threaten an unlikely upset.

However, the 2019 Australian Open quarter-finalist suddenly burst into life at 2-2, as he tucked away a backhand winner to seal his first break of the match.

Tiafoe roared with delight and soon levelled the match at one set all with a tidy ace.

The American’s hard-court prowess eventually began to show in the third, as he eventually took his third break point to move 2-1 ahead.

He then secured the double-break with a rasping cross-court forehand return to leave Trungelliti on the brink.

Tiafoe duly wrapped up the third set 6-2 with some big serves.

The fourth set began on serve and a cheeky Tiafoe serve and volley saved a crucial break point, as the American held on for 2-2.

However, the Argentinian was not to be denied as he broke the world number 34 to move 4-2 ahead.

Trungelliti then served out the fourth set, just as the sun was beginning to set in Melbourne, taking it 6-3 to level the match at two sets all.

With the crowd urging him on, Tiafoe nailed a crucial volley at the beginning of the fifth to hold serve.

He then broke Trungelliti for a 2-0 lead, who could only volley into the net.

Tiafoe never looked back and served out a morale boosting win with an ace to seal his place in round two.

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Grigor Dimitrov downs Jiri Lehecka to begin Australian Open campaign

Grigor Dimitrov began his Australian Open campaign with a four set victory.

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Grigor Dimitrov - Indian Wells 2021 (foto Twitter @BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov continued his good form as he saw off the challenge of Czech qualifier Jiri Lehecka.

 

The former world number three came through 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

He will next play boisterous Frenchman Benoit Paire in round two, which promises to be a fairly even match-up.

Lehecka, who came through three rounds of qualifying, tested Dimitrov throughout.

In the Bulgarian’s opening service game, four break point opportunities came the way of the Czech.

Some clutch serving and an exquisite backhand volley at the net, saved the critical fourth break point as Dimitrov hung on.

At 2-1 down, Lehecka served and volleyed to save two break points as the set stayed on serve.

The qualifier continued to impress as he cracked a forehand winner to level up at 3-3.

Eventually Dimitrov adapted to his new surroundings, playing on court 7 show court, as the decisive moment came at 5-4 where he finally broke Lehecka to clinch the opening set.

Dimitrov saved a break point at the beginning of the second set, as Lehecka began to apply pressure to the Bulgarian’s serve.

The point of the match soon came at one-all 40-30, as a quick flick of the wrist from Dimitrov saw him execute a fine trademark backhand cross-court winner. Lehecka was left standing and simply had no chance.

In the tennis world, the Bulgarian is seen as possessing one of the best backhands in the world alongside Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet.

More serve and volleying from Lehecka dug him out of a hole at 2-1 down as he saved a break point. A thumping forehand from the Czech levelled the set at 2-2.

A rare double fault at 3-3 from Dimitrov gave Lehecka the break and he closed out the set with an ace, 6-4.

In the third, Dimitrov held to love in his opening service game and broke the youngster in the second game to seal a crucial break.

With the set on a knife edge at 5-3, 40-30, Lehecka went long after a lengthy baseline exchange as Dimitrov moved two sets to one up.

The fourth set was perhaps the most compelling as both players refused to back down on serve.

At 5-4 down Dimitrov continued to serve strongly and duly held, before nailing the critical break at 5-5 with a dipping forehand winner that landed in, to the delight of his Bulgarian supporters.

The 26th seed was then taken to deuce but it wasn’t enough as Dimitrov sealed it 7-5 to move into yet another second round at Melbourne Park.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Olympic Gold Medalists Face Differing Challenges

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Belinda Bencic on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Six months ago in Tokyo, Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic earned the biggest achievements of their young careers: winning an Olympic Gold Medal for their country.  Now they have their sights set on claiming their first Major, though neither has a straightforward second round draw.

 

Wednesday’s schedule also includes top names like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Daniil Medvedev.  However, with all of those stars being strong favorites on Day 3, other matches featuring some of the sport’s most exciting performers may be the day’s most compelling affairs.

Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Victoria Azarenka (24) vs. Jil Teichmann – 11:00am on Kia Arena

It was 10 full years ago when Azarenka won her first Major in Australia, a feat she would repeat just 12 months later.  Despite reaching three finals in New York, she’s still trying to secure her third Slam title.  Injuries sidelined her several times throughout 2021, yet she still put together a strong 28-9 record on the year.  Teichmann had a breakout 2021, reaching semifinals in both Adelaide and Duabi to start the year, and upsetting three top 12 players during a run to the final in Cincinnati.  But she may be overmatched against an in-form two-time former champion, who dropped only four games in the first round.


Belinda Bencic (22) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Third on Kia Arena

Anisimova was very close to being eliminated from this tournament in the first round.  The 20-year-old American was down a set and a break to Arianne Hartono, and a point from going down a double break in the second set, before storming back to win in three.  However, that near-defeat is not revealing of her recent form, as she started the season by winning a title on these very grounds.  Anisimova has been working with Darren Cahill on a trial basis in Australia, which has already paid dividends.  Bencic has continued to play well following her Tokyo triumph, where she won medals in both singles and doubles.  Three years ago on grass in Mallorca, Belinda defeated Amanda 6-2, 6-2.  Coming off such a close call on Monday, I suspect Anisimova will play freely on Wednesday, and I would not be surprised if she upset the Olympic Gold Medalist.  When her groundstrokes are on, especially her backhand, there aren’t many players who can tame Anismova’s aggression.


Carlos Alcaraz (31) vs. Dusan Lajovic – Third on 1573 Arena

Coming off his star-making run in New York, Alcaraz went right back to work in the opening round here, easily prevailing in less than two hours.  Lajovic required nearly twice as long to overcome Marton Fucsovics in five.  The 31-year-old Serbian advanced to the second week of this event a year ago.  However, the rest of his 2021 season didn’t go as well, ending the year with a record of 18-28.  And he started 2022 by going 0-3 at the ATP Cup.  I expect to see some extra fight out of Dusan during this tournament, as I anticipate many of the Serbian players will be motivated by what occurred over the past two weeks with Novak Djokovic.  But taking out one of the sport’s most formidable newcomers, especially when you’re coming off a five-setter, is a tall task.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. John Millman – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Following his first round victory, Zverev admitted things had not gone to plan, and he had not played his best.  Despite that, Sascha still prevailed in straight sets, escaping two tight sets via tiebreaks.  He may not be able to afford such dips in his level against one of Australia’s grittiest competitors.  Millman will certainly enjoy plenty of crowd support, and he has taken out big names at Majors before.  At the 2018 US Open, he upended Roger Federer in extremely hot and humid conditions.  And at the 2019 French Open, though he lost, Millman pushed Zverev to five sets.  However, I fully expect Sascha to up his game on Wednesday.  The German won 41 hard court matches last year, and claimed five titles, including the ATP Finals.  He seems primed to make his second Slam final sooner than later, perhaps even at the end of next week.


Gael Monfils (17) vs. Alexander Bublik – Last on Margaret Court Arena

Well this match is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining, featuring two players who often choose the more fun shot over the smarter shot.   Monfils struggled to find any form following the pandemic shutdown, as playing in front of empty seats did not inspire him.  But with fans back in the stands, Gael’s results have improved.  He started the year by winning his first title in two years.  By contrast, Bublik played well in the first half of 2021, propelling him to a career-high ranking some September, yet his results fizzled later in the year.  During 2020’s autumn edition of Roland Garros, Bubik defeated Monfils in four sets.  But with his mojo back, the Frenchman is the favorite to avenge that loss on Wednesday.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Lucia Bronzetti (Q) – On Monday, Barty needed less than an hour to dismiss Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who reached five lower-level finals last season.

Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (Q) – Nadal was another straight-set victor in the first round.  Hanfmann is a 30-year-old German who took out Thanasi Kokkinakis with the loss of just seven games, as the Australian was drained from his title run last week in Adelaide.  Three years ago at Roland Garros, Yannick earned only six games against Rafa.

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Xiyu Wang (WC) – Krejickova advanced almost as easily as Barty, by a score of 6-2, 6-0.  Xiyu is a 20-year-old from China who on Monday gained her first victory in the main draw of a Major. 

Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Stefan Kozlov (WC) – Berrettini overcame some considerable stomach issues to secure a four-set win on Monday.  Kozlov is a 23-year-old American who is making his Slam debut, thanks to claiming two Challenger titles in November to earn his wild card.

Naomi Osaka (13) vs. Madison Brengle – Osaka won comfortably in the opening round, while Brengle beat Dayana Yastremska by the bizarre score line of 6-1, 0-6, 5-0(RET), with Yastremska retiring one game from defeat. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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